Legislature: Row over donation of animals

2013-02-08 00:00

THE donation of animals, including baboons and hippos, to Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini caused a storm in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature yesterday.

The matter got so heated that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife boss Bandile Mkhize dared parliamentarians to inform the monarch themselves if they didn’t want the conservation agency to make donations to him.

This emerged when Ezemvelo appeared before the joint sitting of standing committee on public accounts and finance committee.

In his report, Mkhize said about 526 animals worth R3,8 million in the 2011-12 financial year were donated to the king and to communities and other unnamed people.

The report said Zwelithini had been given animals worth nearly R400 000 since 2009.

They included eight buffalo worth R24 804, two unpriced baboons, two giraffes worth R10 458, two unpriced grey duikers and five hippos.

Finance committee member Belinda Scott was concerned that the cash-strapped conservation agency was making such donations.

“That seems to be a hell of a lot of money,” Scott said.

Although she understood the donations had been made to improve relations with communities around game reserves, Scott said, she could not understand why Zwelithini was a beneficiary.

“The amount that you give to … the king is a lot and he has a huge budget of his own. I’m not sure why he does not pay for it.”

She said she was concerned that beneficiaries in the “other persons” category were not named.

The Inkatha Freedom Party’s Henry Combrink said he had no problem with the animal donation “if the donation takes place in a community where there is a game reserve”.

Defending the donations, Mkhize said the agency had a relationship with the monarch, who was their ambassador in their anti-rhino poaching campaign.

“If these issues that pertain to the king have got to be taken up, I don’t think we are the relevant people to take them up,” he said.

Mkhize said the legislature members should rather take up the matter with the king themselves because the agency would still make donations if he made a request.

“Unless this house says to us, ‘Please stop giving these animals to the king’, we will go to the king and say the legislature told us not to give these animals because of ABC,” Mkhize added.

He said that despite the criticism of the donations to communities, there was a history to the gestures, which were aimed at fostering good relations with communities.

The communities made the requests and the agency used its discretion, especially if it was for a traditional function.

“We must put ourselves in the shoes of those communities.

“I would hate a situation where I had to say to communities, ‘The legislature said to us we must stop giving out animals’. That would not be a nice thing to say.”

Scott said: “At a personal level I don’t have a problem with donating animals to the community.”

But other committee members opposed discussing the matter further in case it attracted media attention.

ANC MPL Siboniso Duma said some of the issues raised should be taken up with the committee that played an oversight role over the conservation agency.

“For me, some of these things are better said in camera and you, chairperson, may end up quoted out of context,” Duma said.

The IFP’s Blessed Gwala said he wished the name of the king had not been dragged in over the issue of donated animals.

“When you mention the name of the king it is very sensitive and people might think you are saying these animals are donated to His Majesty as an individual, but it is for the communities,” Gwala said.

Ezemvelo can’t say no to king

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