The DA welcomes the announcement of the committee of inquiry to deliberate on matters relating to a possible trade in rhino horn made today by Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa. The announcement is a direct result of pressure from the DA and other lobby groups.
In January last year the Minister made utterances about a “panel of experts” which would investigate the feasibility of trade in rhino horn. This original formation of the panel was mired in secrecy and its original membership of 8 was reportedly heavily skewed in favour of trade. In today’s briefing the Minister announced a 21 member panel with a more balanced composition reflecting the various views on the issue of trade.
The Minister’s statement misleadingly states that, as early as January 2014,she announced that once pre-screening and vetting by the State Security Agency (SSA) was completed, that the names o the panelists would be publically released. This line attempts to shift the blame on the delay in releasing the names of the panel onto the SSA. No such statement was made in January 2014.
The first time the Minister alluded to the vetting process being a hindrance was in fact in October last year following DA Parliamentary questions and calls for the panel to be transparent. To make it seem otherwise is disingenuous.
The Minister was pressured into extending the secret 8 member cabal to a transparent 21 member committee by the DA and other lobby groups who demanded fairness and transparency.
The DA still believes that focus on legalising trade is a red herring that continues to polarise the country and hampers efforts to curb Rhino poaching.
Poaching would be significantly impacted if as much resourced focus was directed at:
Demand reduction in consumer states like China and Vietnam,
Education and awareness of South African’s to value our rich and diverse animal heritage,
Involvement of community in share incentive schemes and
Creating a first class Intelligence agency to disrupt organised crime.
In fact, if this Government had taken such decisive action back in 2008 when this scourge first raised its ugly head, we would be seeing results now.
The DA awaits answers to parliamentary questions as to when the committee’s work will be completed and the report made public.
The DA believes it is unlikely that the report will be ready in time for submission to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora by September this year, ahead of the CoP17 to be held in Cape Town in March next year. If, according to the Minister, it takes over a year to complete vetting, it is quite a stretch to think that the entire work of the committee could be completed and subjected to public scrutinised in roughly seven months.
The DA will continue to press the department to ensure that the work of the inquiry is carried out in a transparent and comprehensive manner.
Shadow Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs
Source : Democratic Alliance