Department rejects claims that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife faces a leadership crisis
The Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) has noted with serious concern fabricated media reports which have painted the wrong picture of the state of affairs at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
In what can only be described as a well calculated campaign to destabilise the organisation and demonise EDTEA MEC Mr Sihle Zikalala, false information has, in the past few months, been syndicated to various media outlets with the sole purpose of creating instability and to score cheap political points.
These false claims which are, in the main, spread by the Democratic Alliance (DA), have generally been looked at with a jaundiced eye by most of media organisations except for freelance reporter, Mr Tony Carnie who has, when dealing with these claims, thrown the journalistic code of conduct out the window and decided to legitimise them by spicing them with his strong personal views.
With the help of his handlers, Mr Carnie has desperately tried to poke holes into how the KZN Wildlife Board was selected. In doing so, he has personally cast an unfair and damaging doubt on the ability of two board members, Mr Thulisa Ndlela and Mr Sipho Mtolo to perform their duties as board members.
We want to state it categorically that we have full confidence in all KZN Wildlife board members who were appointed through a process which was transparent, credible and legally sound. Mr Carnie personally feels that Mr Ndlela and Mr Mtolo should not have been appointed because they do not, in his subjective assessment, have a background in environmental issues.
His personal feelings are irrelevant because the KZN Nature Conservation Management Act, 9 of 1997 allows the MEC to appoint three board members from any category he feels can enhance the functionality of the board. Mr Ndlela and Mr Mtolo, therefore, bring fresh ideas from outside the environmental sector which have proven to be useful for the organisation in the past few months.
We are unapologetic about pursuing the agenda of transformation within Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife because we understand that it is untenable that this entity remains elitist, accessible only to, and led only by a specific minority.
We also reject- and in the strongest possible terms- the politicisation of a purely administrative matter, especially the casting of aspersions on MEC Zikalala and the Head of Ministry Mr Kwazi Mshengu for diligently executing their administrative duties.
Mr Carnie has again accepted as gospel truth claims made by the Democratic Alliance that KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife is on the brink of collapse. Surely, an organisation that has in the past three financial years received unqualified audits cannot be said to be on the brink of collapse!
During the recent Portfolio Committee meeting which was also attended by DA members, the department was showered with accolades for its bold attempts to protect the environment when a plan to fight against rhino poaching was presented. The department will, in the next three months, recruit and train 20 game rangers as part of its attempts to stop poaching.
The new board is also looking at ways of using some of its assets to generate income, hence the process of finalising the commercialization approach is about to be completed.
It is also a blatant lie that the CEO, Dr David Mabunda, has been pushed to resign. Again facts have been deliberately twisted to achieve a particular agenda. In fact, there has been a submission from both the board and CEO in this regard and the MEC is still applying his mind to that submission.
We also want to deal with lies that Ezemvelo is being crippled by massive budget cuts. The explanation we are providing in this regard has been on several occasions been provided publicly and during portfolio committee meetings.
In the 2016/17 Medium Term Expenditure Framework, due to census data updates of the Provincial Equitable Share formula, coupled with declining Provincial Own Revenue, as well as cuts implemented by National Treasury, the department suffered a substantial decrease of R403,617 million to its baseline budget. In the 2017/18 budget an additional R51 million was cut from the budget of the department. The aggregate effect of the budget cuts over two financial years necessitated a reduction of the transfer payments to public entities reporting to the department in the amount of R360,356 million for 2017/18. In the case of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife that amounted to a budget cut of R108,683 million.
However due to the financial pressure experienced by the entity and the critical nature of the work required to be performed, the department engaged in a rigorous process of internal reprioritisation in order to make additional funding available to Ezemvelo.
The additional amount appropriated to Ezemvelo by the department amounted to R76,140 million, and the entity was also allocated a further R19,847 million from the fiscus to cater for Rhino anti-poaching, and the carry-through costs of the 2015 wage agreement for staff. This effectively brought the funding allocated to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to a total of R707,720 million, which compares very favourably with the original allocation of R720,416 million as recorded in the 2015/16 Budget Statements as the budget for the 2017/18 MTEF outer year.
We are aware of the challenges faced by both the national and provincial fiscus, hence the rationalisation of public entities and new and innovative ways being considered for the EDTEA and public entities to carry out their mandate. This period needs all roleplayers, including the media, to work together and deal with these challenges. The article by Tony Carnie is antithesis to this constructive approach.
Source: Government of South Africa