Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa. Photo: Sizwe Ndingane

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa must resign as she has failed to tackle the issue of rhino poaching, animal activists said on Tuesday.

Outraged SA Citizens Against Poaching director Allison Thomson said animal activists felt Molewa should resign because rhino poaching had increased.

They also wanted an investigation into the department's biodiversity enforcement deputy director general, Sonja Meintjies.

Thomson said there had to be an independent inquiry into the department.

She was speaking at a media briefing in Joburg by the National Working Group Against Rhino Poaching.

Poaching was rampant not because there were no funds to curb it, but because of corruption within the system, she said.

“One only has to look at the illegal ivory trade, the illegal tiger bone trade and many more to know that they have absolutely no history of success in controlling illegal trade,” she said.

The government had promised to assist private rhino owners and the time had come for it to do so, said Thomson.

The department, however, said it was short-sighted to call for Molewa's resignation as rhino poaching was a criminal activity.

“To blame her is to miss the reality of the bigger poaching picture,” said departmental spokesman Albi Modise.

He said rhino poaching was a criminal activity which South Africa was bearing the brunt of, as there was suddenly a high demand for rhino horn.

Denying claims that the government had failed to act on poaching, Modise said it was in talks with China, Vietnam, Hong Kong and other countries which had shown an increase in demand for rhino horn.

“Government doesn't operate on who makes the loudest noise, but on empirical scientific evidence, which stakeholders feel will lead to a sound and sensible decision,” he said. – Sapa