By Amanda Watson
It is never easy to conduct an autopsy on a poached rhino. Each time one is found in a national park, it is the job of the resident environmental crime investigation ranger and South African Police Service forensic rhino specialist to slice into the mammoth carcass to try and find the relatively tiny bullet which killed it.
Each time one is found in a national park, it is the job of the resident environmental crime investigation ranger and South African Police Service forensic rhino specialist to slice into the mammoth carcass to try and find the relatively tiny bullet which killed it.
Performing their task in the heat of the blazing African sun nearly every day, their thoughts as they pull the thick, heavy skin off the animal with a paper shredding sound will be far removed from the widening cracks in the credibility of the rhino horn trade committee.
Yet, despite the cloud hanging over the committee’s chairperson Nana Magomola and member Lourence Mogakane, the committee will next week still engage stakeholders over the “feasibility or not, of a rhino horn trade” in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg.
Mogakane was fired in 2005 as the financial director of the Bohlabela District Municipality after a special disciplinary committee found him guilty of gross misconduct and financial mismanagement.
As far as former vice president of the National Gambling Board (NGB) Magomola is concerned, this week the Department of Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies noted preliminary findings of a forensic investigation into the NGB, revealing the irregular expenditure of more than R3.6 million. “The forensic investigation also revealed that the NGB did not have a bank overdraft even though the bank allowed it to use the facility several times,” Davies said in a statement.
A fuming Terri Stander, Member of Parliament and Shadow Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs reiterated on Wednesday the rhino poaching “debacle was already thick with distrust, greed, suspicion, manipulation and the involvement of highly organised crime syndicates. The people considering trade in rhino horn should be above reproach.
Molewa said in response to questions in parliament from Stander, she was aware of Magomola’s history as she had not been found guilty of a crime, “and a person is innocent until proven guilty and that is the principle I choose to uphold”. Molewa said Magomola was appointed to the committee “due to the background and experience held in legal matters, as well as being the current chairperson of the South African National Biodiversity Institute”.
The minister was also aware of Mogakane’s history. “The said person was nominated by the community he leads i.e. the People and Parks,” Molewa wrote in her response to Stander. “He will be representing ordinary communities upholding and advocating the views and positions of the communities, safeguarding their interests in the process and he will not be dealing with finances. It is also important to note that the said person is not a government official”.
Outraged SA Citizens Against Poaching (OSCAP) have called for the removal of the two members from the committee. “We would like to suggest that individuals with less controversial backgrounds be considered for membership on this panel. We are sure you would agree that any person entrusted with such a responsibility should not be shrouded in controversy and have a reputation beyond reproach,” Allison Thompson wrote on behalf of OSCAP.
The last official number of rhino poached nationally was in January, which stood at 49. At the beginning of March, it was revealed 120 rhino had been poached in Kruger this year already.
It was also revealed that the DoE receives daily updates of rhino poached via sms, but according to Stander, Molewa said the information would only be released “quarterly or so” as Molewa’s team could not be expected to “spend all their time collating the information”.