iSimangaliso Wetland Park: Authorities deny IFP’s allegations

2009-01-11 00:00

Allegations of mismanagement and misallocation of funds were behind last week’s demand for a full inquiry into the management of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KZN’s first world heritage site and largest conservation area.

Henry Combrinck, the IFP’s spokesman on Environmental Affairs, said on Friday that there is an urgent need for a full investigation into the “dysfunctional relationship” between the wetland park authority and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW), bodies who are jointly responsible for managing the park.

He said ongoing investigations into the management of the Kosi Bay region afforded him “extraordinary insights” into the growing antipathy between the two organisations.

Unofficial sources within EKZNW and other conservation bodies have accused the wetland park authority of overriding conservation decisions.

However, others have accused IFP affiliates of using one of the country’s most precious conservation areas as a political football ahead of elections.

Combrinck said an inquiry needs to explain the absence of a single development within the park. “Five nodes of development were earmarked. Not one of them has come to any fruition. In terms of unfulfilled promises, public expenditure, tourism and most importantly employment for people, this is a scandal.”

He added that there is no integrated management plan (IMP) and that large sums of money were squandered hiring an Australian consultant to create one.

He also accused chief executive Andrew Zaloumis of constantly overriding the EKZNW’s opinions on managing the reserve and obstructing the creation of an IMP.

The IFP maintains the conflict between EKZNW and the Wetland Park Authority has existed since the creation of the park in 2000, but has only surfaced as a result of the neglect of the Kosi Bay region. This, Combrinck explained, resulted in an uncontrolled invasion by day-visitors, the destruction of natural vegetation, an explosion of illegal camps in the area and the cutting down of 43 km of fencing.

Chairman of the iSimangaliso Management Board. Mavuso Msimang. said the IFP’s accusations are based on incorrect information.

He said out that, in six years of operation, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park has been consolidated from 16 parcels of land into a world-class conservation and eco-tourist destination. Zaloumis and the executive staff have, at all times, acted with the board’s sanction and sre “doing an extraordinary job in a very complex environment”.

He denied that Zaloumis obstructed the creation of an IMP, adding that no money has been spent on Australian consultants.

An IMP based on the World Heritage Act was released in December and closes for public comment on February 18.

Simpiwe Mxakaza, communication services manager for EKZNW, said newly appointed chief executive Dr Bandile Mkhize will be meeting with Zaloumis and could not comment at this stage.

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