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Johannesburg - The government’s plan to set up a national fund it would manage to combat rhino poaching has been blasted by the non-governmental sector, which fears the fund will be mismanaged.
The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has been forging ahead with the establishment of the National Rhino Fund. It claims this will allow donors to be sure their money is going to anti-poaching projects.
The idea behind the fund is that the government will look at projects that are underfunded and channel the money to them. It also will establish a separate DEA registry dealing with anti-poaching groups.
However, at a meeting with NGOs, non-profit organisations, the private sector and the public in Kempton Park last week, the DEA came under fire.
The major concerns raised included government involvement in the non-governmental sector and a potential mismanagement of funds.
“It’s a clear and absolute conflict of interest,” said Katheryn Kure, director of the eThekwini Community Foundation. She also questioned how the government could expect to raise funds through NGOs and why there was a need for a separate registry.
“It’s a needless duplication within the government,” Kure said. Her organisation was already registered with the Department of Social Development and was accountable to the Department of Justice, the Master of the High Court and Sars, with all finances available to the public on demand.
“When the government says we want to ring-fence your money and we’ll decide how it’s spent, I’m sceptical,” said another concerned person.
Deputy director-general in the DEA Fundisile Mkenti admitted there was distrust in the government’s management of funds but said money would be used responsibly. “The money we get is not for politics; it’s for rhino poaching.”
Sheelagh Antrobus, of Project Rhino KZN, was worried that bigger, more politically connected groups would get most of the funding while smaller ones would get the left-overs. “I’m very concerned that it is going to be like lion cubs at a kill,” she said.
Mkenti replied: “We don’t see competition. You help us by telling us who is funding you… give us those and we’ll avoid them.”
Another issue was whether the government would support groups opposed to legalising the rhino horn trade, because the DEA had a pro-trade stance.
“We don’t care, that’s your mandate… we won’t stop you,” said Mkenti.