Tourism industry mourns one of its trailblazers
As an individual, Tu – as she fondly known by her siblings - was just that –an individual. And what an exceptional one! She was born on 14 July 1970 in KZN. She holds a Master of Science Degree from the University College of Buckinghamshire, UK. At the time of her untimely death, she was studying towards her PhD in Maritime Affairs (World Maritime University) in Sweden with a specific focus on maritime policy and job creation.
Within the tourism industry she was affectionately known as Sindi. She joined the tourism industry as an intern at South Africa Tourism and in 1996 she worked as a junior Tourism Officer at the City of Tshwane, in 1999 she joined the Department of Economic Development and Tourism in the Western Cape as a Chief Director for Tourism and Economic Development. She was determined to fly.
In 2004 she joined the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism as an advisor to the then Minister of Tourism, Mr. Marthinus van Schalkwyk. During her term at this office, she demonstrated her deep understanding and insight of the tourism sector, and provided strategic leadership to the Department in general. She soared!
In 2006 she was appointed as the head of the first ever Tourism Black Economic Empowerment Council. During her tenure within the Tourism BEE Council, the tourism sector was the very first economic sectors to develop the BEE sector codes. This clearly demonstrated her vision to ensure transformation within the tourism industry.
In 2008 she was appointed as the Deputy Director-General for the tourism branch. As a great thinker, innovator and a leader, she introduced new programmes that changed the landscape of the tourism sector in South Africa. She was very passionate about Tourism Human Resource Development and many programmes were introduced flowing from the Strategy. These include amongst others, the National Tourism Careers Expo which she later introduced at SAMSA, Service Excellence which was piloted during 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup, Local government intervention programmes and Responsible Tourism. South Africa is the first country in the world to develop a Responsible Tourism Strategy and this was realized through the great efforts of Sindi. As a person with a vision, she identified an opportunity that the sector could pursue in Marine and Health Tourism. Her contribution in shaping and bringing new insights into the industry was enormous. She was a visionary and a coach. She dedicated her in life to bringing change into the tourism industry and inspired both young and old. Yes, when she flew, she lit up the sky!
She was a founding member of the Cape and Craft Design Institute, and also a lifetime fellow of the Emerging Leaders Programme from Dukes University in the United States and University of Cape Town in South Africa. She served on the National Heritage Council, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, TETA Maritime Chamber and Cullinan Holdings as a Non-Executive Director. Through her hard work she was nominated in 2013 as the Best Female Public Servant. She also received an award from the University of Durban Westville (University of KZN) for being exemplary alumni. In 2015, she was awarded the IPM ‘Business Leader of the Year’ award, also in recognition of her achievements. She flew onward and upward!
She was passionate about issues of transformation, human development and she represented South Africa proudly in many multilateral fora. Her zest for life was contagious and we count ourselves lucky to have worked with such an inspirational soul. Those of us who were close to her, we will never forget her ready smile and gentle nature.
Sindi was a fearless fighter, a trailblazer and a great nurturer, strongly believed in making a contribution to people`s lives. Unfortunately, the silent killer disease called cancer decided to strike this great tree of Africa, and on 11 February 2016, she succumbed and was called to her eternal home.
To those of us left behind it is our responsibility to pick up the baton and finish the race. We shall continue to celebrate her wonderful life and legacies. Yes, we will continue to be inspired by her strength and selfless service in advocating tourism and making it relevant to all South Africans. May her gentle soul rest in peace. Sindi is still flying – this time with the angels.