Minister Edna Molewa’s statement on the announcement of the Committee of Inquiry established to deliberate on matters relating to rhino poaching and its effects

10 February 2015


Members of the media,

Last month, in this same venue, I reported on the government’s progress with regards to the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros: our holistic, multi-pronged approach to tackle the scourge of illegal wildlife crime, and in particular, rhino poaching.

I reported that though our efforts have yielded positive results, rhino poaching continues to threaten not just the survival of this iconic species, but also South Africa’s sterling conservation track record.

But as I have stated before, given the highly organized nature of the syndicates had it not been for our interventions.

Some of the measures we have taken in this regarding include:

  • strategic translocation of rhino
  • increased collaboration between law-enforcement agencies
  • disruption of criminal syndicates
  • tightening ports of entry and exit to combat smuggling of illicitly sourced wildlife parts, including rhino horn
  • collaboration with range, transit and end-user states
  • providing economic alternatives for communities vulnerable to recruitment by poachers

We have indeed been making progress in winning this war. But we have realized that in order to deal with the problem, we are continuing to look at additional solutions to complement existing efforts.

To this end, in July 2013 the Department of Environmental Affairs was mandated by Cabinet to investigate the feasibility of a proposal for the legalization of a trade in rhino horn at the 17th Conference of Parties (CoP17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) if it is concluded that South Africa should trade, this will be tabled at COP17.

A Committee of Inquiry was established to make recommendations to the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) appointed by Cabinet.

The IMC comprises the Ministers of Environmental Affairs, International Relations and Cooperation, Trade and Industry, Finance, Science and Technology, Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Rural Development and Land Reform, Economic Development, Tourism, South African Police Services, State Security Agency and Justice and Correctional Services.

At the January media briefing, in response to questions from the media, I assured you that as soon as the State Security Agency had done the necessary pre-screening, the names of the committee would be publically released.

Today we are pleased to present and introduce the Committee of Inquiry to the nation, for you to engage with them.

As you will know, those joining me here today, as well as those joining us via video link from the GCIS offices in Pretoria – have been tasked with investigating, evaluating and making recommendations on a matter that has, for various reasons, generated a great deal of interest.

Because of this, the Department of Environmental Affairs has endeavoured to follow all the necessary legal processes before undertaking the step of making their names public.

This media briefing is also being held to underscore our commitment to transparency, accountability and open government: as we have always done and will continue to do.

I would like to personally commend and thank all the members of the Committee of Inquiry for making themselves available to assist us as government in this important task.

Many will be taking time out of very busy schedules: with several competing commitments: all because they are willing and prepared to serve their country: in this, the conservation of our rhino.

As I stated earlier, the Committee of Inquiry embarks on its work ahead of CoP17. In the furtherance of South Africa’s sustainable development agenda, South Africa offered to, and won the bid to host CoP17 in October 2016.

Due to the technical nature of the issues to be discussed by the Committee, a Technical Advisory Committee was established to support the IMC.

The TAC comprises the Directors-General of the Departments of the Ministries represented in the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), and will facilitate the processes - ensuring that both technical and strategic matters are adequately addressed before reports and or recommendations are submitted to the IMC for consideration.

In the coming months the men and women here will consult with all relevant stakeholders - before submitting a set of recommendations.

May I state again, at this point, that South Africa has not taken a position on the issue. We will not do so until the committee has completed its work and presented its findings.

Any proposal will be based on sound research, and will have been reached after canvassing as wide a range of views as has been possible.

As government we have not in the past and will not in future be swayed by anyone with vested interests in either outcome.

South Africa continues to subscribe to sustainable utilization principles, which in turn form part of the Integrated Strategic Management of rhinoceros which I reported on to you here, last month.

As a country, we will continue to be guided by this principle, as we ensure our conservation legacy is preserved for generations to come.

We know that without people there is no conservation. And without fostering alternative economic opportunities for communities affected by poaching – enabling them to see the value of a live rhino over a dead one: we will not be able to rid ourselves of this problem.

Those joining us here today comprise a cross-section of stakeholders from both the public and private sector: leaders in their field who have been selected based on extensive expertise and experience.

This includes representatives from law-enforcement agencies, SANPARKS, the scientific community, the immigration service, the revenue service, the conservation industry, private wildlife owners, community organizations as well as non-governmental organizations and traditional leadership.

Before handing over to the Chair of the committee, Ms. Nana Magomola, who will introduce those committee members present, and outline the Terms of Reference of the Committee of Inquiry – I want to issue an invitation to organizations, individuals and all stakeholders, to make representations to the committee.

This is not our process alone. It is your process, as South Africans.

We owe it to ourselves and future generations that we do not sit complacent from the sidelines. So write, present, engage, we are waiting to hear from you.

An announcement will be made at the end of the briefing indicating how members of the public may do this.

 A schedule of engagements and workshops being convened by the committee will also be made available in due course.

Thank you, and over to Ms. Magomola now.