Protector pins deaths on game fence
October 1 2014 at 02:50pm
By CHRIS NDALISO AND SAPA Comment on this story
Durban - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has laid the blame for the deaths of villagers from Ukhukho in Zululand, the maiming of others and the killing of their livestock, squarely at the door of the provincial government and the wildlife authority.
She said the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife were responsible for allowing stray wild animals to escape from the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve because of poor fencing.
In her report on the attacks by wild animals released on Tuesday in Pretoria, Madonsela said she had no reason to doubt the accounts of the villagers, including traditional leaders, about the incidents in which more than 100 people lost their livestock.
Some villagers lost limbs while a few died after being mauled by lions and leopards.
Madonsela visited the area in July to get more information and to talk to the people.
“Virtually none of those people can say, ‘I’ve never lost anything’. The game reserve has fencing that was built around the 1950s,” Madonsela said, indicating the fencing was not properly maintained over the decades.
In the report, titled “Ubuntu”, which looked into uncompensated wildlife attacks on villagers and their livestock, Madonsela found that the department and Ezemvelo had failed to adequately compensate the victims for their losses.
“Over the years, the plight of these communities has received occasional print and electronic media (coverage), with the last incident happening in July 2014, the time I had visited the communities for an inspection in loco at the reserve,” she said in the report.
Some of the people who met Madonsela at the time, related stories and showed the investigation team wounds allegedly inflicted by wild animals, mainly leopards, wandering outside the game reserve.
The report reveals that a victim of wild animal attack, identified only as Mr K, was offered R50 000 and a tractor as compensation by the then-agriculture MEC, Meshack Radebe.
Mr K suffered various injuries including the loss of a hand, a disability that prevented him from using the tractor.
“The peoples’ view was corroborated by the Ezemvelo officials who presented their side of the story at the meeting of July 17 and during the inspection in loco at the game park later,” Madonsela said.
During the inspection, according to the report, rangers pointed to the ageing perimeter fence and its poles as the reason the animals had escaped.
Madonsela found the department and Ezemvelo had failed to install or ensure adequate security measure to prevent these attacks.
By failing to compensate the victims, the two entities violated the principle of redress in section 195 of the constitution and the Batho Pele principles, she said.
Mike Mabuyakhulu, MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, said he would make sure the Ezemvelo board reviewed its compensation claim policy, adding that the wildlife authority had started a process to upgrade the fence and a service provider had been appointed to supply and deliver the fencing material.