The Democratic Alliance (DA) has submitted a Public Access to Information Application (PAIA) (view here) to unlock the findings of a critical probe into rhino poaching. This as their slaughter continues unabated in Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) parks.

The move comes as sources within the organisation indicate that at least 71 rhinos have been poached this year alone, putting KZN well on the road to the species facing extinction within the next five years.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, there has been silence from both the provincial Executive and Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) MEC, Ravi Pillay. This while the exponential rise in poaching has also been absent from recent committee meetings.

The DA’s decision to submit a PAIA to Premier Sihle Zikalala’s office in an attempt to finally have the secretive Report of the Task Team into Rhino Poaching in KZN released comes after years of delays.

This report was originally commissioned by KZN’s provincial cabinet in 2016 and handed to the Premier on completion in 2020 and allegedly details all aspects of the Ezemvelo entity that has led to rhino poaching in KZN.

Despite repeated attempts by the DA to have the report released, the Office of the Premier (OTP) has flatly refused to do so. It has also refused to table the report before KZN’s Conservation and Environmental Affairs portfolio committee.

The question is – where is MEC Pillay in all of this? And why is it left to the DA to fight for the release of a report which has the potential to save our rhinos?

The DA believes many of the fundamental issues raised in the report may have already been discussed in committee. That said, the report could serve as a tool to hone in on the critical action needed to curb poaching which must include the following;
· An urgent cash injection into the field ranger component to not only employ rangers who have already been trained – but to adequately equip field staff
· This must include new rifles, ammunition, bulletproof vests, night vision equipment and thermal drones to take the fight to the poaching syndicates and;
· A fully revised budget to equip staff and provide the basics such as helicopter support and fuel for vehicles. These are the basics that field staff need now to win the fight against poaching.

The DA expects the Premier and his MEC to immediately act on this growing emergency by immediately taking both the public and KZN’s Conservation portfolio committee into their confidence and releasing the report. This must be coupled with a strong political will to empower those in the field through clear budgetary action plans.

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Heinz de Boer, MPL

Heinz de Boer, MPL, is the Democratic Alliance KZN Spokesperson on Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.

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