THE Democratic Alliance has called for answers after a parliamentary reply which reveals that two KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife employees were arrested last year for alleged involvement in poaching, while a further three staff, also implicated in the scam, are due to appear before a disciplinary board later this week.
The information, contained in a parliamentary reply to the DA in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, by provincial Conservation MEC, Lydia Johnson, confirms that two staff members were arrested on 29 October 2010 at Hlabisa and iMfolozi games reserves. According to DA KZN Conservation spokesperson, Radley Keys, the case against the pair is currently pending at the Mtubatuba District Court.
“A further three staff members have also been suspended for suspected involvement in poaching, bringing the total to five. While the two employees awaiting trial were dismissed last year in March and May respectively, the other three have been suspended pending the outcome of a disciplinary, which appears to be taking forever to happen. The disciplinary dates were originally set for 20th, 21st and 24th of January but have now been postponed to 9th, 10th and 11th February, apparently due to unavailability of representation.”
Keys said the DA was extremely concerned by the manner in which the issue had been dealt with. “The entire incident has been swept under the carpet by both KZN Ezemvelo and senior conservation authorities in the province. The parliamentary reply states that a “combination of intelligence and informant network, initiated and spearhead by management led to the employees of Ezemvelo being arrested and detained for involvement in poaching”. If Ezemvelo is so pleased with its efforts, then why was this matter not brought to the attention of the provincial conservation portfolio committee?
The entire incident smacks of a cover-up and the DA will be taking steps to ensure that it does not happen again. We will also be watching developments closely as far as the pending court case is concerned, along with the disciplinary. We cannot have a situation where dedicated conservationists are fighting the scourge of poaching while KZN Ezemvelo and provincial authorities conceal the facts and drag their heels.”
Statement issued by Radley Keys, MPP, DA KZN Spokesperson for Conservation, February 8 2011