Mixing young and old blood in the top echelons of management could be one of many elements that made Pretoriuskop stand out as Best Camp in Kruger 2004. Ezrom Muthumbe, Camp Manager, said he knew last year at the previous Kruger awards, that his staff had it in them, but it too early for them.
When the former regional manager said earlier this year at a function that while this is a time for South Africa to celebrate its 10th year of democracy, let it also be a year of progress and achievement, he was inspired to motivate his team to intensify their efforts everyday. "Achievements are important," he says, "but we do not work to achieve awards, but to exceed our paying guests' expectations." "It is all teamwork," he says, "from all the staff at the camp."
Ezrom, also known as the Preacher, says he puts God first in everything, everyday. Everyday all staff begin the day with a five-minute devotion. "I believe I have achieved what I have by the grace of God," he said.
The duty managers completing this successful top management team comprise two very able women – Margaret Jones and Bongile Louw. Margaret studied Travel and Tourism at the Pretoria Technikon and did her practical training at the Lowveld Info Centre. She began her career as an accounts clerk at the Spar Supermarket in Strydom Park, White River. A voluntary year doing training in dance, drama and counseling with Youth for Christ groomed her to deal with different people and different cultures in the hospitality industry, while always remaining friendly and calm.
She spent about two years at Casa de Sol as assistant Front Office, before accepting a position at Halala Lodge near White River. When she left Halala she held three titles, banqueting, marketing and duty manager.
She joined Kruger to gain experience in a bigger corporate environment and get closer to the actual conservation environment. She has also had to acquire new skills, learning patience and creative thinking as she copes with a bureaucratic culture.
Bongile Louw says she was born an hotelier and what she was not born with she admired and emulated in her older brother who was in the catering industry. She acquired her training at the Swaziland College of Catering and did her practical training at the Nursing School in Swaziland, which gave her a good grounding in industrial catering.
She then joined Fedex Food Services as catering manager where she stayed for two years until she joined Kruger as restaurant manager at Shingwedzi in 1997. She moved to Satara after a year and in 2000 the restaurant was awarded restaurant of the year. She became duty manager at Satara and moved to Pretoriuskop in 2001.
She believes in making plans for the year, improving on the previous year and learning from your mistakes. Ezrom is a negotiator of distinction having added his inputs to the South African Constitution at Codesa during the mid 90s. These skills were honed during his time as deputy minister of Community Development, Economic Affairs and Tourism in the former Gazankulu Government. "Often, the Chief Minister sent me to negotiate additional funds for specific projects with the central government and the Development Bank of Southern Africa," he says. "We had to be innovative and pro-active to secure funding for economical development projects."
During his time as member of parliament he liaised extensively with the local khosi and indunas on development issues. As the minister for tourism he was responsible for the running of Manyelethi, Andover, Letaba Ranch and Mangombe Reserves. He was sent abroad to visit and learn from tourism and conservation organizations in Britain, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Portugal, the USA and Australia. Before his parliamentary days, Ezrom was the secretary in the Jongilanga Tribal Authority, serving 12 villages for 11 years. He was instrumental in facilitating the building of the Ximhungwe Post Office.
He believes Pretoriuskop is popular because it provides variety in terms of accommodation from R90 for a campsite to R160 for the smallest hut and R1600 for a guest house. The historical swimming pool, the first built in the Park, and part of a huge granite outcrop, is something to see and enjoy.
"We have exciting plans for the future including a short interactive trail close to the camp to be developed in collaboration with the Honorary Rangers," says Ezrom. The trail, known as the Sable Trail, will focus on trees and birds and cater for disabled people, senior citizens and people who prefer short walks around the camp. Ezrom said the Wolhuter Museum at the camp, incorporating the historical Post Office, would also be upgraded.
Selection and Criteria
The selection committee comprised William Mabasa, head of Public Relations; Lucy Nhlapo, head of Tourism, and Blake Schraader, head of Technical Services in the Kruger National Park.They evaluated each camp on various aspects related to the overall appearance and cleanliness of the camp, the administration and related procedures and maintenance and technical support.The regional manager motivated why he or she thought the respective camps deserved the awards and the committee made a final decision.