The Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism of the Provincial Government of the Western Cape, Garth Strachan, has called for an independent investigation into the operations of the City of Cape Town’s Film Permit Office.
Said Minister Strachan: “The film industry is up in arms that the Cape Town Film Permit Office is effectively sinking the sector in bureaucratic quicksand. I am mindful of the fact that regulating these activities – including the location and control of shoots and the system of providing permits – is a local council function. However, I cannot simply shrug my shoulders at the numerous complaints from companies trying to do business in the City. News reports in the weekend press confirm numerous complaints and anecdotal evidence that filming in Cape Town, in the view of private sector companies, is very difficult.
“I understand that the Permit Office is facing challenges and is under-resourced. We need a system in place that is 2010 capable in terms of being able to handle media and media tourism groups that are small and travel through locations much faster than commercial or feature productions. However, the City has been aware of these challenges for some time and I would expect them to be further down the road in facing them than we are at present.
“Cape Town is competing in terms of film locations with countries such as Argentina and Australia. Right now with our exchange gives us an advantage over these countries. But the inefficiencies in the City are damaging our reputation and constitute a clear and damaging binding constraint on growing the industry.’
The Minister has called on Mayor Helen Zille to institute an immediate independent investigation into the operations of the Cape Town Film Permit Office and to take immediate steps to rectify the problem. “In circumstances of a global economic downturn, we can ill afford to lose this business and the strong job creation potential of this sector,’ he said.
Minister Strachan stressed that the Western Cape Provincial Government was committed to the film industry. “We co-fund the Cape Film Commission and have invested R30-million in the Cape Town Film Studios. We need to work together for this industry to flourish, and not hinder its development. Hence the need for strong partnerships to build a competitive film sector. The Provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism stands ready to assist if it requested to do so.’
This is not the only problem facing Cape Town at the moment, which is promoted to the world as a premier tourist and investment destination, in addition to being a prime film location. According to Minister Strachan, the City of Cape Town has withdrawn its funding from the tourism destination marketing organisation, Cape Town Routes Unlimited. It has also announced that it intends to withdraw from Wesgro, the investment agency.