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Minister Edna Molewa briefs Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs on steps taken to address Illegal Wildlife Trade

03 March 2015

 

On World Wildlife Day, the Minister of Environmental Affairs Mrs. Edna Molewa has presented the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs with a progress report on the department’s work in fighting wildlife crime; including the illegal killing of and illegal trade in wildlife.

The Minister also briefed the committee on the Terms of Reference and composition of the Committee of Inquiry appointed to evaluate existing measures to combat rhino poaching, and evaluate additional, supplementary measures: including the possibility of a legal trade in rhino horn or not.

The Portfolio Committee noted the department’s report. Committee members recognized that efforts and activities to address rhino poaching were ongoing, and acknowledged that to effectively address the illegal trade in wildlife - the department relies on other key Ministries, such as Safety and Security.

Minister Molewa also initiated countrywide celebrations of World Wildlife Day celebrations across South Africa - which was marked by a community event and a live broadcast carried by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

She also paid tribute to the renowned environmentalist, the late Professor Wangaari Mathai, who is honored on World Wildlife Day: an event that further coincides with Africa Environment Day.

The theme for this year’s World Wildlife Day is “Wildlife Crime is Serious; let's be serious against wildlife crime”.

Minister Molewa re-emphasized the departments’ commitment to address these issues through various actions, including:

  • Coordinated actions of the Green Scorpions (Environmental Management Inspectorate)
  • National training programmes – for Green Scorpions, Prosecutors, Customs and other port officials, awareness raising for Magistrates
  • Compliance and enforcement joint operations
  • National hotline, information collection and reporting
  • Regional and international engagements on wildlife crime matters

The Minister clarified matters relating to the Committee of Inquiry. The names of the members as well as the Terms of Reference were provided to the Portfolio Committee.

The Minister re-emphasized that the possibility of trade or not will be considered by the Committee of Inquiry in the context of the government’s Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros.

This is the government’s holistic, multi-pronged approach to tackle wildlife crime, and in particular, rhino poaching. The interventions implemented to date will continue and will be enhanced - as reported by the Minister earlier this year.

The Minister informed the Portfolio Committee that a smaller group of experts initially worked on the issue during 2014. The notion of a Panel of Experts was subsequently abandoned, and a Committee of Inquiry appointed: to deliver on the broader scope of work contained in the Terms of Reference.

The Committee of Inquiry was announced on 10 February 2015.

The Portfolio Committee was informed that pre-screening on all members of the Committee of Inquiry has been completed. A request has been submitted for further full vetting, which takes longer than the pre-screening process.

The Minister informed the Portfolio Committee that the Committee of Inquiry was appointed in terms of the Treasury Regulations and that individuals who are not officials of organs of State will be remunerated commensurate with both Treasury regulations and rates prescribed by the National Treasury.

The total costs relating to work done by the smaller group referred to as the ‘panel of experts’: R208 753.47

The total costs relating to the meeting of the Committee of Inquiry: R32 287.73

A total of R241 041.20 has therefore been spent to date on work done to date.

Members of the Portfolio Committee requested clarification relating to the process, particularly with regards to views of the CITES Parties on the issue of trade.

The Minister indicated that the Committee of Inquiry would provide a report at the end of September 2015. The Inter-Ministerial Committee appointed by Cabinet will consider the report and make final recommendations to Cabinet. If the Committee’s recommendation is that a proposal for trade should be submitted for consideration to the 17th Conference of Parties (CoP17) to CITES, a proposal will be prepared six months prior to the CoP; slated for September / October 2016.

Specific dates are to be confirmed in consultation with the CITES Secretariat, taking into consideration other multi-lateral meetings taking place at the end of 2016.

Consultation with CITES Parties and more specifically, with range States that may be affected by a possible proposal, will form part of the process that will be initiated when a recommendation has been approved by Cabinet. This will also include alignment with the requirements contained in the relevant CITES resolutions.

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Albi Modise
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