Durban - The DA in KwaZulu-Natal has called on the province's conservation portfolio committee to scrutinise Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife's grasp on its mandate.
“Contrary to what Ezemvelo officials appear to believe, hospitality is not the wildlife body's core function,” provincial Democratic Alliance MPL Radley Keys said on Friday in a statement.
“Its mandate is to protect conservation within our province.”
According to the Mercury newspaper, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife was told by the government that it had to operate independently.
Keys said the report was misleading because the finance committee did not say it would no longer fund the wildlife agency.
“Treasury will continue to fund the conservation but it needed to up its act in the hospitality section because it was losing money,” he said.
Ezemvelo reportedly received an annual budget of over R500
million from the provincial government and employs over 2500 people.
“It is confusion within this key area that has led to Ezemvelo's funding woes, to the extent that there is currently no direct budget allocated for the fight against rhino poaching in this province,” Keys said.
Ezemvelo was hauled before the KwaZulu-Natal parliamentary committee on finance on Thursday to explain how it would generate more money.
Ezemvelo chief executive Bandile Mkhize told the finance committee that the agency had set itself an objective of generating revenue of R193 million in 2012/2013 compared with R177m generated in 2011/2012.
Keys said despite staff cuts, salary bills continued to grow, meanwhile occupancy rates remained low and facilities and infrastructure were neglected.
“This is indicative of a malaise amongst staff, led by a clearly incompetent and self-serving management,” he said.
Key said Ezemvelo had proved to be incompetent in its hospitality section and needed to allow for the private sector or a public/private partnership to run the department to help subsidise it.
“The focus must return to the protection of our natural heritage,” he said. - Sapa