It has been more than a week after the entire Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife Board was suspended, and still no information has emerged on what exactly the board is being accused of.
As such, Democratic Alliance (DA) KZN spokesperson for Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scope) and finance, Francois Rodgers, wrote to KZN Scopa chairperson Maggie Govender, calling for all role players to account for the ongoing crisis within the wildlife entity.
Rodgers has also called on Govender to conduct an investigation into the appointment of the Ezemvelo Board, its performance, why its former CEO David Mabunda resigned, and the sale of Ezemvelo land to the department of agriculture at “well below market price”.
“The destruction of Ezemvelo under the watchful eye of Premier Zikalala needs further interrogation so that all of the unanswered questions can be answered.
“The board cannot simply be held accountable for this debacle – it is time that members of the province’s ANC-led executive were also held to account.
The board’s suspension was announced by economic development, tourism and environmental affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube, due to “prima facie allegations”.
Despite numerous enquiries, by The Citizen, the DA and other concerned parties, it is still not known why the suspension took place.
In the absence of this information, suspicions about the competency of the Board to sign off on carrying out essential conservation strategies has arisen.
Rodgers explained that the ailing entity appointed a “largely inexperienced and incompetent board” in 2017 by Zikalala, who at the time was the MEC for the department of economic development, tourism and environmental affairs in KZN, “which almost destroyed the wildlife entity”.
The board that was suspended last week may not have been fit for purpose, Rodgers explained, which he said smells of yet another cadre deployment saga.
When the suspension was announced, finance MEC Ravi Pillay was appointed to start a forensic investigation into allegations facing the board. But the DA pointed out that Zikalala has moved all forensic investigations from Treasury to his own department, which Rodgers said makes Dube-Ncube’s request “questionable”.
DA MPL for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs, Heinz de Boer, told The Citizen he has “serious reservations” about how board members at Ezemvelo are appointed.
“I have absolutely no doubt in many cases there is nothing but a political motive to appoint people to these boards.”
De Boer flagged that members are expected, at the very least, to be qualified in zoology, ecology or financial management.
“The board is packed with political appointees, and that’s problem number one. When you appoint people based on their political affiliations and not work experience or qualifications, you’re always doomed to fail,” de Boer said.
He added his voice echoing Rodgers that Zikalala must explain how Board members were appointed, and if any cadre employment influence was used.
The current board, De Boer said, added to the plethora of financial woes facing Ezemvelo.
So far, there has been no communication, no clarity on financial irregularities, who took money, who was corrupt and who was not.
Even members of parliament and portfolio committees have been left out of the vague information loop, De Boer said.
Rodgers warned that opting not to nurture the Ezemvelo Wildlife entity will destroy South Africa’s wildlife heritage and tourism, “not only as a result of Covid-19, but also due to ongoing incompetence by the provincial government”.