Donation of high value species to private individuals: North West Department responses

Environmental Affairs

23 January 2017
Chairperson: Mr P Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

READ - Response document (Annexures to follow)

The Committee considered the responses to follow-up questions it asked the North West Department of Rural Environment and Agricultural Development (READ) about its donation of high value wildlife animals to private individuals. The Committee frowned upon the role of the READ spokesperson who had presented an erroneous report and misrepresented the facts of the previous meeting. The North West Member of the Executive Council (MEC) was asked to reprimand the spokesperson. The Chairperson stated that the matter had been investigated and the records of the previous meeting showed that the North West Parks Board (NWPB) had not followed government prescripts in the game donation transaction.

The questions posed by the Committee asked for details on the available species per park, male and female, before and after game donation commenced; the impact on the viability of the breeding potential of the remaining population; deaths experienced per park, male and female, during translocation; a report by the veterinary surgeon present during translocation; births from game donated; provision of the old and new game donation policy; signed resolutions of the authorities adopting the policies; status of births and mortalities of animals during the first and second quarter monitoring and evaluation; correspondence between READ and Provincial Treasury on Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) compliance; animal sales after the game donation transaction; information on other organisations or persons that approached READ for game donations and READ’s responses; and all veterinary reports on the project.

The Committee was not satisfied with READ’s responses and there was a robust discussion. They asked about the rationale for leaving only male buffaloes behind; for details on the approval of the old game donation, how READ decided that the translocation did not have a negative impact on the breeding potential of all remaining animals when only male buffaloes remained in Borakalo and Molemane Eye; for the correspondence with and approval by the Provincial Treasury on PFMA compliance; how the game donation by NW Parks could conserve the environment for future generations; why animals died during translocation when this could be prevented by darting; why the veterinary permits showed that the game were translocated to the same address which was the farm of Mr H De Kock; about inconsistencies in the statements on the population of captured buffaloes; why veterinary officers did not follow ethical procedures and explain the game donation transaction did not address animal welfare; for READ to clarify the memo from SARGBA on Madikwe on surveillance and salvage of animals which stated the buffalo population dropped from 242 to 69 as a result of tuberculosis.

READ explained that the female buffaloes were translocated first because there were feeding challenges. The reduced nitrogen levels in the feed during the late dry season were insufficient to sustain the females especially lactating females. It agreed that the translocation of only female buffaloes would affect the viability of buffalo stocks and committed that the NW Parks would move the male buffaloes in due course. Tuberculosis was diagnosed and this resulted in the shocking amount of buffaloes culled. Some of the animals died due to stress complications that arose from a broken jaw during translocation, permits were approved for different farmers under South African Rare Game Breeders Holdings (SARGBH) but as the project was domiciled on the De Kock’s farm the game was sent there. The CEO approved the game donation at the time but used the old game donation policy.

The Committee remarked that it was strange NWPB officers used the old policy, and asked who approved the old policy and on whose authority it was approved. Based on READ’s responses, the Committee established that the old policy was non-existent. The NWPB appeared to have flouted Section 24 of the Constitution. It asked the Department to state the way forward.

Members asked why applications for game donation by other organisations were not approved; if veterinary specialists were used in the programme, the criteria used to choose them and their profiles.

The Department reported that the Madikwe SSP was conducted by the Parks Board who had their own specialists and they used their own criteria to employ them. Management relied on the outcome of tests from the veterinary specialists in the parks to make decisions and the game donation transaction was not a disposal of assets. In addition, the decision to cull game was taken as a result of stress, predators, disease, poachers and security. Furthermore, donations were meant to preserve the species and the NWPB and the department was in the process of revising the game donation policy.

The Committee established that the numbers of game donated in this transaction were very high and conservation principles were not followed, the retention of only male buffaloes at Molemane Eye Nature Reserve was against conservation principles and two of the beneficiaries were white and they were previously privileged persons.

The MEC accepted that the animal welfare of the male buffaloes had been affected but READ was currently reinforcing security at Botsalano Nature Reserve. On the way forward, she stated that at the national level Operation Phakisa had been launched and result driven approaches are being put in place for environmental conservation. She indicated that the SARGBH consortium had more resources and would serve as mentors. Based on the presentation of SARGBH as mentors, the EXCO approved the game donation transaction because there was no Board and READ hoped to leverage on the success of this game donation to empower previously disadvantaged people (PDP). READ was implementing an EXCO resolution so that the North West communities would benefit from the natural resources. It was unfortunate that there were no black game breeders to mentor PDPs hence the decision to use white farmers. The MEC did not have the mandate to stop the game donation transaction but she would convey the Committee resolutions to EXCO.

The Committee stated it was not opposed to a transformation programme that empowered PDP but it would not support a programme that was anti-transformation. It resolved to craft the way forward because the MEC was not able to assist the Committee. However, the game donation was not to be interpreted as a donation because the Parks would recover the animals back after breeding. In addition, the Committee had established that the old policy used for the transaction could not be relied on as the approval date and approval authority was in doubt; the NWPB had not advised EXCO that the old policy was inconsistent with the NWPB mandate; the EXCO approval of the SARGBH game donation proposal did not make the transaction right; and the handling of the project did not comply with conservation principles. Consequently, the Chairperson resolved to hold a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture and their decision would be communicated to READ via the MEC.

Meeting report

The Chairperson opening the meeting with a moment of silent prayer and said the Committee will be briefed by the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) in the North West province, Ms M Tlhape, and the Department of Rural Environment and Agricultural Development (READ) on follow-up questions that arose as a result of the meeting of 30 November, 2016. The Portfolio Committee on Agriculture had been invited to the meeting. The meeting was convened because the Committee observed that South African National Parks (SANParks) did follow due process in donating game to some individuals in the North West province. The Committee had earlier asked SANParks questions but was not satisfied. Therefore SANParks had been mandated to provide written responses to some questions. In addition, when the Committee issued a summary of its deliberations that showed that READ had not followed due process in the game donation process, a READ spokesperson stated that the summary was not a true reflection of the deliberations. However, when the matter was investigated, the Committee was found to have presented the correct events based on records and the READ spokesperson was found to have misrepresented the events. The Committee therefore mandated the MEC to reprimand the READ spokesperson.

The Chairperson thanked READ for promptly giving responses to the questions and invited the North West MEC to introduce her team and take the Committee through the presentation.

Ms Manketsi Tlhape, North West MEC introduced her READ team: Dr Poncho Mokaila, Head of Department; Mr Jonathan Denga, Director: Biodiversity Management; Mr Edward Mothobi, NW Parks Board CEO. She apologised on behalf of READ for the misrepresented facts and promised to reprimand READ’s spokesperson.

The MEC in her introduction stated that READ was asked to provide written responses to nine questions. The questions asked for details on the available species per park, male and female, before and after game donation commenced; the impact on the viability of the breeding potential of the remaining population; deaths experienced per park, male and female, during translocation; a report by the veterinary surgeon present during translocation; births from game donated; provision of the old and new game donation policy; signed resolutions of the authorities adopting the policies; status of births and mortalities of animals during the first and second quarter monitoring and evaluation; correspondence between READ and Provincial Treasury on Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) compliance; animal sales after the game donation transaction; information on other organisations or persons that approached READ for game donations and READ’s responses; and all veterinary reports on the project. She stated that READ would reprimand the spokesperson and invited her team to give responses to the questions.

Mr Jonathan Denga, Director: Biodiversity Management, stated that the NWPB managed populations of high value species such as Buffaloes, White Rhino, Sable Antelope and Nyala in several of its parks in Madikwe, Pilanesberg, Mafikeng, Botsalano, Borakalalo, Molemane Eye and Kgaswane Mountain Nature Reserves (see Annexure 1). Buffaloes were present in all nature reserves. White Rhino populations were originally present in all nature reserves but were removed from Borakalalo and Molemane Eye Nature Reserves due to poaching pressure. Sable Antelope was present in Pilanesberg, Borakalo and Kgaswane Mountain nature reserves while Nyalas were only present in Borakalo Nature Reserve. The male and female population figures were provided. After translocation, the buffalo remaining in Molemane Eye and Borakalo were 11 and 18 males, three male and one female Sable Antelope in Borakalalo and eight sexless Nyalas in Borakalalo. Presently White Rhinos had not been translocated and buffaloes had not been translocated yet from Pilanesberg, Mafikeng or Botsalano as planned within the project.

On whether game donation had a negative impact on the viability of the breeding potential of the remaining population, he stated that because the natural distribution range of the Nyalas was North Eastern low-veld they did not do well in NW and therefore the objective was to translocate the remaining eight sexless Nyalas in Borakalalo. Although the remaining Sable Antelopes in Borakalalo was a viable specie, they were under threat from poachers. Concerning the remaining male buffaloes in Molemane Eye, as a result of the dry season, nitrogen levels were reduced and the animals had to be given supplementary feed. While buffaloes in Borakalalo were viable, they were under threat from poaching; therefore intervention is required as a result of their value. The translocation did not have a negative impact on the viability of the breeding potential of all remaining animals.

Mr Denga stated that some of the game experienced mortalities during the translocation as a result of injuries such as a broken jaw and gave the statistics (see Annexure 2). Six Sable Antelope, three buffaloes and five Nyalas were given birth to in the South African Rare Game Breeders Holding (SARGBH) facilities. One Sable Antelope was introduced to the herd at the SARGBH facilities. The veterinary surgeon’s reports were attached.

Mr Denga reported that the old game donation policy included the purpose and provisions used for all donations, the guidelines for project implementation, screening of applicants, criteria used and limitations (see Annexure 3). The new game donation policy was approved by the accounting authority in the absence of the Board. However the old policy was used for the South African Rare GAME Breeders Association (SARGBA) transaction because the decision had been made before the new game policy was developed (see Annexure 4).

Mr Denga noted that the strategic objectives of the first and second quarter monitoring and evaluation (M&E) were reported under institution and governance, regulatory compliance, breeding success, transformation and empowerment and financials (see Annexures 5 and 6). He reported on READ key activities target achievement such as convening of SARGBH shareholders (12 September, 2016) and monitoring meetings (17 November, 2016) under institution and governance, updating of legal compliance register (regulatory compliance), started to monitor and evaluate animal health (breeding success), compiled half yearly report of equity ownership performance indicators which showed no changes in the shareholders agreement, completed status report with no changes in terms of ownership equity, held SARGBH shareholders half yearly meeting (12 September, 2016), established project review committee and implemented review objectives of all signed documents (25 July, 2016), held a capacity building workshop for black employment equity BEE partners and community (12-14 September 2016), developed and implemented a five year equity plan for employees, developed a corporate social investment strategy and undertook specific corporate social responsibility initiatives in neighboring communities where SARGBH properties were located (transformation and empowerment). He attributed lower achievements of key activities in quarter one to challenges which were overcome with more meetings and re-evaluation of set key activities which led to compilation of more reports in quarter two.

Mr Denga explained that all correspondence between READ and the Provincial Treasury on PFMA compliance was provided in Annexure 7 and 8. Responses on animal sales after the game donation transaction were attached in Annexure 1. In addition to applications received by SARGBA, applications were received from Sunshine Game Breeding Program (SGBP) for Buffaloes, Roan and Sable so as to establish and breed rare disease free game in North West, Eagle Quest Game Farm (EQGF) for Sable Antelope and White Rhino, Wildlife on the Move for Tawny and White lions age six months to adulthood and Baphiring traditional community for Sable Antelope, Hartebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Impala, Kudu, Blesbok, Nyala, Eland and Waterbuck two (see Annexure 9). The READ responses were attached. All veterinary reports were in Annexure 2.

Discussion
The Chairperson noted that although he had read the submission earlier, he did not understand the criteria used in translocating animals in the game donation plan because only male buffaloes were yet to be translocated. He asked questions on the rationale of leaving only male buffaloes behind, details of the approval of the old game donation policy and clarification on which annexure was the old game donation policy. He asked how READ arrived at the conclusion that the translocation did not have a negative impact on the viability of the breeding potential of all remaining animals because only male buffaloes remained in Borakalo and Molemane Eye. He asked READ to provide the correspondence and approval from the Provincial Treasury on PFMA compliance.

Mr T Hadebe (ANC) observed that the responses did not include SARGBA’s application for game donation. READ had earlier stated that no animals were donated to SARGBA but the veterinary reports attached showed that SARGBA received some animals. In addition he noted that the Nyalas from Borakalo Park were reduced from 27 to eight, Sable Antelopes from Borakalo were reduced from 48 to four and from Pilanesberg from four to zero. He asked READ to provide the application from SARGBA and explain how the game donation practiced by NW Parks could conserve the environment for future generations.

Ms J Edwards (DA) said that only male buffaloes where yet to be translocated, that animals died from a broken jaw during translocation when this could be prevented by darting, the veterinary permits showed that Nyalas and Sable Antelopes were translocated to the same address (the farm of Mr H De Kock). She noted inconsistencies in the statements on populations of captured buffaloes and the veterinary officers did not follow ethical procedures. She asked for more information on why the animals died, why the Nyalas and Sable Antelopes were translocated to Mr De Kock’s address and for the new translocation address of the buffaloes. She asked READ to clarify whether 23 or 22 buffaloes were captured and to explain why four buffaloes died during capturing when death could have been prevented by darting.

Ms H Nyambi (ANC) asked READ to clarify the inconsistencies on the total number of Nyalas and buffaloes.

The Chairperson agreed with Ms Edwards observation that the deaths during translocation were high. He asked READ to explain why there was a significant drop in the population of buffaloes from 235 to 69 as stated in Annexure under the Madikwe Surveillance and Salvage Program. He asked READ to state if the deaths occurred as a result of disease and explain why the deaths were so high.

Mr S Makhubele (ANC) said that some of the responses were confusing because slide 33 indicated that animals were not sold after the game donation transaction. The old policy stated that game donations below R1 million were supposed to be approved by the accounting officer and those above were supposed to be approved by the Board therefore READ must have used the new game donation policy. Based on this, he asked READ to explain why transformation had not been achieved, state when the new policy was developed and explain why the new policy was developed. He asked READ to state whether at the point of donation whether the value of the species was determined, clarify who approved the game donation because there was no proof of Board approval.

The Chairperson asked READ to state who approved the game donation transaction.

Mr Denga replied that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) approved the game donation transaction at the time but used the old game donation policy.

Mr Makhubele asked READ to explain why the NWPB contravened the approval authority based on the value of the species.

The Chairperson asked Ms Tlhape (MEC) to clarify how donation of game resulted in achieving the mandate of preservation and conservation as reflected in the transformation policy.

The MEC replied that NWPB game donation was done so as to take advantage of breeding agreements with SARGBA and benefit from the offspring after the breeding period. She noted that READ had presented all correspondence that the Committee had asked for.

Mr Denga explained that the game donated were the animals for which there were security issues and this was the basis for stating there was viability of the breeding potential of all remaining animals.

The Chairperson interjected and asked Mr Denga to give information on each question and not give general statements.

Mr Denga replied that 11 male buffaloes were still remaining in Molemane Eye Nature Reserve. However due to security threats the 11 male buffaloes would still be translocated.

The Chairperson interjected and said that this security challenge was not indicated in the report submitted.

Mr Denga stated that the slides only indicated feeding challenges but security challenges as a result of poaching was another factor considered before the game donation was done.

The Chairperson interjected and said that if feeding challenges occurred, both male and female buffaloes should have been translocated because this had a negative impact on nature conservation.

Dr Poncho Mokaila, READ HOD, stated that although it was not proper to leave male buffaloes behind at the Molemane Eye nature reserve; however, the female buffaloes were translocated first because there were feeding challenges. The challenges were due to reduced nitrogen levels in the feed during the late dry season which was insufficient to sustain the females, especially lactating females, and thus the animal’s body condition declined during the dry season. NWPB considered this measure to preserve the females. (see ecological implications memo in Annexure 1).

The Chairperson said that the question was asked because the viability of the breeding potential of the remaining male buffaloes could not be maintained. This had a negative impact on nature conservation.

The MEC stated that she fully agreed that the translocation of only female buffaloes would affect the viability of buffalo stocks and committed that the NW Parks would move the male buffaloes.

Ms R Semenya (ANC), Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, said that the welfare of the male buffaloes had been affected as a result of the translocation of only the female buffaloes and she asked the MEC to address this.

Dr Mokaila noted that the new game donation policy was dated June 2015 in Annexure 4 and the old game policy in Annexure 3 did not come with a date. READ had provided all correspondence between it and Treasury in Annexure 7 and 8. The Provincial Treasury was notified but there was no response. However, the game policy was implemented based on the Executive Committee (EXCO) resolution.

The MEC replied to the question about inconsistencies in animals numbers donated to SARGBA from that of 29 November 2016 meeting, saying that READ was still in the process then, hence the new answer.

Dr Mokaila said that READ had proposed the change to the clause “game donated” to “game to be donated”.

The Chairperson remarked that READ should clarify the memo from SARGBA on Madikwe concerning surveillance and salvage of animals which stated that the buffalo population had dropped from 242 to 69 as a result of tuberculosis. He suggested that the memo should have read ‘culled as a result of tuberculosis’.

Dr Mokaila replied that tuberculosis was diagnosed in the buffaloes and testing revealed some other diseases such as brucellosis and this resulted in the shocking number of buffaloes culled.

Mr Denga replied that READ was still in the process of translocating the eight sexless Nyalas remaining at the Borakalalo Nature Reserve because they were not viable for breeding. The four Sable Antelope at Pilanesberg were moved into a breeding programme. He stated that some of the animals died due to stress as some other issues occur during translocation. Permits were approved for different farmers but because the project was domiciled on the De Kock farm, the game donated to these farmers was translocated there.

Dr Mokaila replied that although the beneficiaries of game donation were different because the permit was issued to SARGBH, the animals were translocated to the De Kock farm, hence the address of the translocated game was the same. The old policy was used because the SARGBH application was received during the period of the old policy (2014). In addition, the application had been approved by EXCO before the new policy was developed. The NWPB used a theoretical system to value donated game and in this instance the CEO approved the transaction because the NWPB had been dissolved although, based on the value the transaction, it should have been approved by the NWPB.

The Chairperson said that Annexure 3 contained the old policy which had no date and did not show the authority that approved the policy. Based on this he asked READ to state if there was any resolution for the old policy.

Dr Mokaila replied that he was not aware of the resolution or approving authority of the old policy.

The Chairperson remarked that it was strange for the officers of NWPB to have used the old policy when they were not aware of the approval date, who approved the old policy and on whose authority it was approved. The Chairperson mandated READ to state the approving authority and date of approval of the old policy because the old policy was completely inconsistent with game donation policies.

Dr Mokaila replied that when he was appointed as the acting HOD he identified that the old policy was inconsistent.

The Chairperson said that the HOD had wrongly advised the NWPB to use an old policy that did not have a legal backing.

Mr Makhubele remarked that if the game donation was based on the old policy, due process was not followed because there was no provision in the old policy for the game donation transaction.

The Chairperson remarked that the Committee had established that the old policy was non-existent.

Dr Mokaila replied that the NWPB agreed with the Committee that due process was not followed during the game donation transaction. However, although he was not the acting authority at the time he had the mandate to advise EXCO against the use of the old policy.

Mr Hadebe said that based on the deliberations NWPB appeared to have flouted Section 24 of the Constitution by acting against the principles of conservation and preservation of the environment in implementing the game donation transaction. Based on this he asked READ to state the way forward.

Mr P Maloyi (ANC) asked why the applications for game donation by other organisations were not approved. He asked if the applications by other organisations were received before the SARGBH application. READ should explain why the other applications were not approved if READ received their applications before the SARGBH application.

Ms Edwards asked READ to state the location of the 14 buffaloes that broke out of the nature reserve.

The Chairperson remarked that the 14 buffaloes were taken to the Madikwe Park under the Surveillance and Salvage programme.

Ms Edwards asked READ to clarify if it was keeping only the 14 buffaloes rescued at the Madikwe Park or only the buffaloes in the Surveillance and Salvage programme (SSP). She asked if veterinary specialists were used in the programme, the criteria used to choose them and the profiles of the veterinary specialists used by READ.

The Chairperson stated that READ should answer the questions and the MEC should state the way forward.

Dr Mokaila replied that the Madikwe SSP was conducted by the Parks Board who had their own specialists and they used their own criteria to employ. Hence the veterinary specialists in the NW Department might not have been used during the programme. Management relied on the outcome of tests from the veterinary specialists in the parks to make decisions.

Mr Edward Mothobi, NWPB CEO, stated that although he was not part of the initial EXCO meeting as he was inducted last year, the game donation transaction was not a disposal of assets. The decision to cull game was taken as a result of stress, predators, disease, poachers and security concerns. The Senior Veterinary Specialists had a Master’s degree. Donations were meant to preserve the species. The NWPB and READ were in the process of revising the game donation policy. He stated that the average two year old Sable Antelope costs R250 000.

The Chairperson stated that although the contributions from the new NWPB CEO gave more information on the game donation transaction, the game donation numbers in this transaction were very high and conservation principles were not followed. The retention of only male buffaloes at Molemane Eye Nature Reserve was against conservation principles. He said that two of the beneficiaries were white and they were previously privileged persons, but the new NWPB CEO was inducted last year and the transaction had already being implemented.

Dr Mokaila replied that the responses to the other organisations that applied for game donation, apart from SARGBH, stated the dates that the applications were received. However, the Parks had process and procedural issues with them. For instance, the application by Eagle Quest Company was not approved because the company had inadequate land size and at the time the Parks had to quarantine some animals. He admitted that time line issues may have occurred in replying to these organisations but the main concerns were process and procedural.

Mr Maloyi remarked that the MEC should confirm if the SARGBH game donation transaction followed the principle of assisting previously disadvantaged people (PDP) or if it was inconsistent with this.

Ms Semenya agreed with Mr Maloyi but advised the MEC to address the issues of animal welfare in her response.

The MEC accepted that the animal welfare of the male buffaloes had been affected but stated that READ was currently reinforcing security at the Botsalano Nature Reserve. On the way forward, the MEC stated that on the national level Operation Phakisa had been launched and result driven approaches are being put in place for environmental conservation and preservation. In earlier discussion with the Committee, READ had indicated that the SARGBH consortium had more resources and would serve as mentors. Based on the presentation of SARGBH as mentors, the EXCO approved the game donation transaction because there was no Board and READ hopes to leverage on the success of this game donation to empower PDP. READ was implementing an EXCO resolution so that the North West communities would benefit from the natural resources of the country. It was unfortunate that there were no black game breeders to mentor PDPs hence the decision to use white farmers to empower PDPs. Her office did not have the mandate to stop the game donation transaction but she would convey the Committee resolutions to EXCO.

The Chairperson remarked that the Committee was not opposed to a programme of transformation that empowered PDP but it would not support a programme that was anti-transformation. He had thought that the MEC would assist the Committee to craft the way forward as a result of the deviations from the mandate of NWPB and its agencies. He stated that the game donation was not to be interpreted as a donation because the Parks would recover the animals back after breeding. The old policy used for the transaction could not be relied on because the approval date and approval authority was in doubt. The HOD, Dr Mokaila, had not advised the EXCO that the old policy was inconsistent with the NWPB mandate as the approval of the SARGBH game donation proposal by the EXCO did not make the transaction right. He stated that the handling of the project did not comply with conservation principles. READ had given the Committee all the information needed to make a decision. Consequently, a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture would handle the matter in line with legislation and conservation policy and the decision made would be communicated through the MEC to READ.

The meeting was adjourned.

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