‘I see change already’

2015-01-22 00:00

MEET David Mabunda — the man who has just six months to right Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s sinking ship.

It’s been two weeks since Mabunda took over as the acting chief executive officer of the troubled organisation, and he says he can already see a ­difference.

Among the first tasks he had to set down for the executive team were creating stability, generating revenue and dealing with low morale.

“I am slowly steering the ship away from stormy seas to calmer waters. It’s still wobbly, but it will be steady,” he said with a good dose of confidence.

The former chief executive of the Kruger National Park and SA National Parks (SANParks) was appointed acting CEO of Ezemvelo in December, ­following the suspension of Bandile Mkhize.

Mkhize and his chief financial officer, Darius Chitate, are on suspension pending the outcome of a disciplinary probe into alleged financial ­mismanagement.

Sitting in his temporary office in the Montrose headquarters, Mabunda (56) said he has developed a ­turnaround strategy, which he will leave behind for his successor.

“In the two weeks that I have been here, I found a lot of things that are wrong with the institution,” he said.

On January 5, Mabunda met with the executive council where he tabled his vision. He also wrote a letter to the staff, promising to deal with their concerns.

“I was speaking to the staff as a ­father; I explained to them that part of the vision included bringing about ­stability, becoming relevant and growing our revenue.

“From the state of doom and gloom that it was, I am now seeing rays of hope. People are beginning to wear their uniform with pride and I also see smiles on their faces.”

Some of the problems he plans tackling in the next five months are making sure that eligible contract staff are made permanent.

Born on a farm estate called Mataffin in Nelspruit in 1958, Mabunda said he was inspired to become a teacher while growing up. He enrolled at the ­Mgwenya College of Education, going on to more than 30 years in the teaching profession.

He later traded his shiny shoes for boots and became a game ranger, joining the world of conservation, something he was also passionate about.

“I am still passionate about education. When I arrived in conservation, I knew education had a role to play in teaching the youth about responsible environmental behaviour,” said the ­retired father of five.

Mabunda said he prides himself on being the first black manager at the Kruger National Park.

“That is where I excelled and brought about transformation. We transformed the Kruger from being an apartheid dinosaur into a beacon of hope for conservation for all.

“I am hoping to bring the same ­passion to Ezemvelo,” he said.

• amanda.khoza@witness.co.za

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