Debate on the second IFP 2011/2012 party motion on Rhino Poaching

Radley Keys, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Conservation and Environmental Affairs

SPEAKER today is truly a sad day, a tragic time in KwaZulu-Natal for heritage and what we may not be able to bequeath to the generations that follow us. We will be harshly judged on our animal husbandry and how we allowed a rare species to pass into extinction.

Obhejane bakwa KwaZulu-Natal bazonyamalala uma singenzi luthu. Sesiside isikathi sikhuluma kodwa singenzi lutho, Obhejane bayaqubeka beyafa, izinkhulumo ngeke zivikele lezi zilwane zethu unQonqoshe sekyyisikathi ukuba athate inzinyathelo zoku vikela lezilwane.

We know what is at stake – at the present rate of killing, in 15 years’ time rhino will be a gravely endangered species on the brink of extinction. During the past 12 months, eight rhinos have been slaughtered in Isimangaliso. In the rest of the province this year alone, more than 50 have been butchered for their horns. The worst mauling of our heritage in the history of our province since they were hunted to near extinction in the early 20th century.

The contrast of what needs to be done and what is being done is sobering indeed.

To protect and preserve our rhinos we need:

Internal to Ezemvelo: – A committed and courageous army of rangers to fight off the parasites that make their millions out of killing – Equipment that can counteract that of these murderers – Training that orients and prepares our rangers for the worst possible situations they are forced to face – A safe environment for the rhinos – fenced reserves and strict access controls. – Leadership that employs capable and competent managers and commanders in this war, and Speaker, it is indeed a war – An MEC who leads the way into battle – A team that puts the heritage of our province first

External to Ezemvelo: – An effective and efficient police unit dedicated to investigating, arresting and bringing the culprits to court – A judiciary that imposes harsh penalties for poachers – A vibrant foreign affairs that closes down the demand from the east – A vigilant Home Affairs that prevents illegal trade and movement of our rhinos out of our country – To use the SANDF as a backup and support for our rangers

Stem the demand, prosecute the poachers, imprison the kingpins behind these stooges who are used to plunder rhino horns and decimate their numbers, get rid of employees in Ezemvelo who are complicit in this destruction – then we will see a turning of the tide in the war.

But, Speaker, what do we instead witness as the killing continues?

– Some rangers, employed to protect are double agents implicated in poaching. They are like paedophiles in a crèche, dressed in the right uniforms uttering the expected words, but harbouring an agenda to destroy, maim and kill. – Our soldiers in the war must be equipped to fight the enemy, guns, vehicles and aircraft. Without that, we are sending them to fail at best and be killed at worst. We auction rhinos and other animals, but that money is not used to purchase equipment to fight the war. Ezemvelo hopes the private sector will fund their failure to provide the weapons. – The training our rangers received must be intensified to enable them and equip them to handle the worst case scenario – Our reserves have porous fences, broken down barriers where access into our reserves is not stopped – eg Hluhluwe Imfolozi, and Ndumo – Access controls are slack and undesirable elements freely enter and leave our reserves – There is no dedicated budget to fight poaching – an indictment on Ezemvelo, exposing its lack of vision and determination to stem the scourge of poaching.

Then there is leadership, or in this case a serious lack of leadership – what we witness is friends and associates employed in senior and responsible positions, not for their competence, but for their close links with the CEO. This is a recipe for failure when competence is not the priority qualification.

A general leads his troops, has his feet on the ground and has impeccable intelligence on the enemy’s movements. Too often our commanders are ivory tower residents fiddling while rhinos are butchered into extinction.

What we have in the MEC is an absent MEC, silent on the slaughter taking place in front of him. Absent from portfolio committees or leaving early, but definitely not a leader committed to preserving the heritage of our province’s rhinos. His use of the state’s helicopter exceeds the number of hours aircraft are in the air to preserve the rhino.

If we had an MEC, visible and up front, with a CEO employing only competent commanders, we would be most of the way to building a formidable team to rid our province of the poaching scum and their masters. Sadly the problem starts at the top, and that’s where we need to address it as a matter of urgency.

The external elements need to be brought into the fray – the SAPS, SANDF, judiciary, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs.

The private sector is active and committed. Ezemvelo must match their dedication and energy if we are to make any headway in this war. We demand this of Ezemvelo leadership, the MEC and every person in the employ of our wildlife organisation.

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