I extend an invitation to the members of the media to be part of a visit to Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) today.
Yesterday, I joined millions of conservationists and nature lovers in observing World Rhino Day.
I have been inundated with calls from national and international anti rhino poaching organizations who have offered to work with our entity Ezemvelo Wildlife in fighting wildlife crime.
High Commissioners, Ambassadors from many countries have also offered to invite businesses from their respective countries to consider investing in eco-tourism products and services for the benefit of local communities.
It is for these reasons that today I will visit Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP), the ‘birthplace of rhino’, situated in northern parts of KwaZulu-Natal. I will personally interact with Game Rangers and thank them for their conservation efforts.
As guided by the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, we are obliged to sustain our fight against wildlife crime. In terms of the Act, the illegal trade in ivory is a criminal offence and anyone found guilty could spend a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail or a fine of R10 million.
Game rangers are unsung heroes and heroines who often risk their personal lives in the service of the nation. I must hasten to point out that game rangers will only perform their duties more effectively knowing that they have our support.
My visit today should therefore be viewed within the context of boosting staff morale and ensuring that their working conditions are improved.
In my interaction with Members of Portfolio Committee on Conservation and Environmental Affairs, across all political lines, we have agreed that game rangers should be equipped with much-needed equipment such bullet-proof vests, binoculars and torches.
In addition, as the department we have committed ourselves to ensure that we provide game rangers with sleeping bags, mosquito nets, repellents and hat nets.
We have also resolved to use the cutting-edge technology such as surveillance cameras and drone technology to improve our anti-poaching programmes.
We continue to express our appreciation to the organizations and individuals that have donated towards this noble cause.
Critically, I am aware of tensions that exits in some parts of the province between game rangers and surrounding communities. In this regard, I offer to continue to work with traditional leaders, communities and non-governmental organizations in ensuring that communities, where game reserves are located, benefit from eco-tourism.
I remain firm in my belief that this government is the only hope of rural communities that live under the yoke of poverty. We will never betray them.
As demonstrated yesterday in Okhahlamba Local Municipality, we are inviting potential investors to partner with local communities to establish more eco-tourism products and conservation services.
The plan is to use the portion of the revenue generated through conservation services to implement viable projects based on the needs of local communities.
The long-term plan is to ensure that communities become owners of such products and services. This is the surest way of ensuring that they enjoy the fruits of this democracy.
Issued by The KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube