Tue, 01 Aug 2017
The KwaZulu-Natal government is planning to weld together two different organisations: one that was set up to protect animals from people, the other to protect people from animals. Now, faced with a State-funding cash crunch, the KZN government has announced plans to merge the 70-year-old provincial nature conservation agency Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife with the KZN Sharks Board, an organisation set up primarily to kill or ward off man-eating sharks.
The proposal has come as a surprise to several conservation leaders concerned about the future of the conservation agency at a time when Ezemvelo has been wracked by leadership instability and funding cutbacks. Reacting to the merger plan, a former Ezemvelo senior executive remarked: “What! The one organisation kills animals and the other is supposed to save them!”
To add to the instability of the proposed amalgamation process, Ezemvelo chief executive David Mabunda resigned this week – barely three years after his predecessor Bandile Mkhize was suspended in the wake of a damning government task team report on massive salary hikes for top executives and allegations of “jobs for pals”.
Mabunda – a former chief executive of SA National Parks who was brought in to restore stability at Ezemvelo in early 2015 after the departure of Mkhize – has insisted that his decision to depart was “amicable and mutual”, despite leaving before his contract expires in 2018.
Image: South Africa is
A new management board was also appointed in 2017 amid concerns that at least two board members were chosen for overtly political reasons rather than their professional experience or interest in nature conservation.
Curiously, the new board also has a tenure of just one year, whereas Ezemvelo boards are usually appointed for three years.
Sihle Zikalala, the provincial ANC chairman and MEC for the Department of Economic Affairs, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, announced in June that the KZN government was planning to merge a number of government-funded bodies as part of a rationalisation process for public entities.
Zikalala told the provincial parliament that government was committed to building a state with “organisational capacity and systems that facilitate [the] realisation of a set agenda”.
Combined with low economic growth, low projections for revenue collection and increasing debt service costs, it was now necessary to implement a rationalisation process for KZN’s 18 provincial public entities.
‘Conservation efforts are costly’
Over the last year, a body known as the Rationalisation of Public Entities Task Team (Ropett) had evaluated provincial public entities, a process that included the possible down-scaling of functions, transfer of functions, abolishment or mergers. This had included an evaluation of both Ezemvelo (with a staff of almost 3 000 people) and the KZN Sharks Board (with just under 200 staff).
“Ropett acknowledges that conservation efforts are costly and that the current operating model of Ezemvelo is not adequately addressing its funding requirements. The subsidy received from government is insufficient to address all the entity’s needs and funds have to be supplemented by own revenue,” said Zikalala.
Image: Thanda Safari
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