Ezemvelo not legal, claims AIA

2010-12-21 00:00

THE Animal Interest Alliance (AIA) claims that the appointment of the board of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) by Lydia Johnson, MEC for Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development, is invalid and must be set aside.

This claim was made in papers filed in the high court in Pietermaritzburg last Friday and, unless it is opposed, the matter is due to come before the court on January 20 next year.

The AIA was formed in 2006 by a group of concerned citizens and animal keepers in response to a policy published by EKZNW to regulate the keeping of wild animals in captivity.

The AIA alleges that the MEC did not follow the procedure stipulated in the KwaZulu-Natal Conservation Management Act 1997 and that the statutory requirements that determine the composition of the board have not been met. If the court finds that EKZNW have operated without a properly appointed board since 2004, and continues to do so under the present board, this will render all its activities unlawful.

In his affidavit, William Horsfield, chair of the AIA, says the law requires the MEC to ensure that the invitation to the public to put forward names for consideration for appointment to the board reaches “the greatest number of residents of the province”. It is alleged that many stakeholders who have a keen interest in the conservation of the wildlife resources of the province were excluded from the nomination process.

Key stakeholders — who must be represented on the board — include organised agriculture in the province, the House of Traditional Leaders and community-based organisations from rural areas. It is alleged that the board lacks this representation. Horsfield says that with the exception of Di Dold, former conservation director of the Wildlife and Environment Society of Southern Africa, none of the board members have a demonstrated interest in nature conservation as required by law.

The court application by the AIA brings to a head a dispute that began in mid-2006 when EKZNW introduced a policy to regulate the keeping of wild animals in captivity, the effect of which would have been to ban the keeping in captivity of all wild animals, indigenous and exotic, except under strict conditions determined solely by EKZNW. The legal power of EKZNW to determine such a policy was challenged and apparently abandoned in mid- 2007. However, according to the AIA, EKZNW did not abandon its policy and began fixing impossible conditions to permit applications.

During the dispute the AIA discovered that the board of EKZNW had comprised only five members instead of the mandatory nine members for some years.

The AIA says this means that EKZNW has operated unlawfully from 2004 and that all of its actions during this period are invalid.

Provincial Agriculture Department spokesperson Zakhele Nyuswa said the department could not comment on the matter as it is sub judice.

EKZNW were also approached, but no one was available for comment.

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