Controversy over new rhino horn commission

2015-02-16 19:17

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Cape Town - The fate of the South African rhino population rests in the hands of a newly appointed commission of inquiry, which appears to be in stormy waters after the DA called for the immediate removal of two "political cadres" with questionable credentials and histories of alleged impropriety.

The panel was introduced to the media in Cape Town last week, just hours before Environment Minister Edna Molewa flew to Geneva to attend an inter-ministerial dialogue of states implicated in the illegal trade in rhino horn, including Vietnam, China, Mozambique, and the Czech Republic.

The commission was tasked with investigating the feasibility of a legal trade in rhino horn, among other issues around rhino poaching, Molewa said.

Cadre deployment

DA deputy shadow minister for the environment, Terri Stander, on Sunday called on Molewa to remove chairperson Nana Mangamola and senior panellist Lourence Mogakane, who is also chairperson of the National Committee of People and Parks Programme.

“Clearly the ANC's inclination toward cadre deployment and jobs for pals trumps the cause of our endangered rhino. By appointing such discredited individuals, the minister, and this process, have lost further credibility,” Stander said.

“The DA is astonished to learn that these two persons passed SSA [State Security Agency] vetting. This lends severe doubt to the credibility of the vetting process, and its lack of transparency."

Albi Modise, spokesperson for the department of environmental Affairs, defended the selection of Mangamola and Mogakane to the commission.

“As is required by law, all members have undergone stringent screening by the State Security Agency prior to commencement of their work. The department of environmental affairs reiterates its full confidence in all members of the committee of inquiry” he said.

During an ANN7 TV interview last Tuesday, Molewa said the panellists were screened through the SSA.

“She then continued to say that if the SSA had found something wrong with any of the panellists, she would have been informed,” Stander continued.

“This concession by the minister begs the questions:

• When was the request made by Minister Molewa to the SSA to vet the panel members and what was the vetting criteria?

• Did the SSA have enough time to vet properly and was previous misconduct, breach of ethics or criminality not part of the criteria?

“The minister is on record saying the panel consists of industry experts, academics, scientists and economists, but it is unclear how these two fit the bill.

Hidden agendas

"It also raises serious concerns about hidden agendas and vested interests. As the chairperson, Mangamola would be the one to report to the inter-ministerial committee,” Stander said.

Mangomola recently resigned as vice chairperson of the National Gambling Board after being suspended by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies last year. 

Her recent resignation came just weeks before a forensic report into alleged misconduct by board members was due to be handed to the DTI. 

The allegations included the auditor general’s findings of wasteful expenditure, that board members had breached public finance rules and served beyond the expiry of their terms.

She was also alleged to have failed to declare her position as the head of another body, the National Responsible Gambling Foundation.

Mangomola’s connection to Molewa goes back to when Molewa was premier of North West and Mangamola served as her director general.

In 2005, Mogakane was fired as the financial director of the Bohlabela District Municipality after a special disciplinary committee found him guilty of gross misconduct and financial mismanagement charges.   

He also failed to prove his qualifications, failed to disclose his business interests, and is on record for poor work performance and unlawful salary advancements.

“The DA still believes that the focus on legalising trade is a red herring that continues to polarise the country and hampers efforts to curb rhino poaching," Stander said.

- An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Magomola and Mogakane as politicians and was changed to political cadres.

Read more on:    da  |  poaching  |  rhino poaching
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