The DA in KwaZulu-Natal has called on Premier Sihle Zikalala and the suspended Ezemvelo Wildlife board to explain alleged political procurement interference by “certain board members” in the entity.
The party has also called for Zikalala to outline the criteria used in the appointment of the now defunct board and clarify if any vetting processes were conducted.
The DA has written to standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) chairperson Maggie Govender for answers, after the closed budget performance hearing with Ezemvelo and the KZN economic development, tourism and environmental affairs (EDTEA) department last Friday.
According to the DA, political interference in the 12-member board was confirmed at the meeting by acting head of the EDTEA department Sihle Mkhize, who added this included “meddling in the procurement process”.
The party said one of the reasons for Ezemvelo’s collapse was the issue of political interference by board members and that it had cautioned local government to intervene to save Ezemvelo.
The entire board was suspended in August and a forensic investigation instituted by KZN finance MEC and MP Ravi Pillay after continued instability at Ezemvelo.
EDTEA MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said the board was suspended due to “prima facie allegations” relating to Section 12 of the KWaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Management Act. The chairperson of the board at the time was Dr William Mngoma and acting CEO Ntsikelelo Dlulane was appointed the conservation body’s accounting officer.
In 2019 an investigation into corruption at Ezemvelo was commissioned by Zikalala, which the DA in KZN said was “directly linked to rhino poaching”.
“The DA has been vindicated in its concerns. Given this revelation (political interference), it is little wonder Ezemvelo is in such a state,” said DA KZN Scopa spokesperson Francois Rodgers.
“It is also little wonder that almost four years since the entity’s commercialisation process first began there are no final results to show, despite the now-suspended board being specifically tasked with concluding this.”
The DA said that while instability at Ezemvelo continued, the conservation body is unable to spend its budget and “continually shows a decline in revenue generation”.
Despite this, board members are still being paid. The Ezemvelo board reportedly cost KZN almost R5 million in the 2019-20 financial year.
According to the DA, South African National Parks’ (SANParks) 11-member board costs taxpayers less than R1. a year.
“In fact, the KZN Ezemvelo board chairperson is paid almost the same as the entire SANParks board costs.”
“Ezemvelo has slowly but steadily been crumbling and is now nothing more than a dysfunctional embarrassment. It is a microcosm of the disastrous effects of a failed state and proof, yet again, that a capable state under the ANC-led provincial government in nothing more than a pipe dream,” Rodgers said.
(Compiled by Nica Richards)