Tag Archives: South Africa

Swaziland’s rhino horn trade bid defeated at CITES – but what are the alternatives?

Talking Humanities


In the last of his series on the rhino horn trade debate, Professor Keith Somerville calls for a new and effective solution to protect these endangered animals. He says the ban on all trade, which has been in effect for 39 years, has not worked and maybe the answer is a more realistic mix that includes biting the bullet of adopting regulated trade that brings in funds to make conservation self-sustaining.

Swaziland’s proposal to trade in rhino horn has been decisively defeated by member states of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

In a secret ballot on 3 October 100 members voted to reject the country’s request to sell its stocks of rhino horn and small annual quantities resulting from natural morality. Twenty-six voted for and 17 abstained. It is believed that Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe (which have the majority of Africa’s black and white rhinos) supported the Swazi bid, while states like Kenya, which has a small and threatened population, voted against.

According to Ted Reilly, who heads the country’s parks, Swaziland would have used the funds from the sale to increase protection and conservation measures and provide incentives for local people to support their efforts.

In an emotional speech to the conference in Johannesburg, he appealed for a vote in favour of the trade, reminding delegates of the financial and human and costs of protecting rhinos, notably the number of wildlife rangers killed by poachers. He said the ban wasn’t working and a regulated trade was the only answer.

Swaziland’s official bid claimed ‘proceeds from the sale of stocks will raise approximately $9.9 million at a wholesale price of $30,000 per kg. That amount will be placed in an endowment fund to yield approximately $600,000 annually’, which would make a huge difference to resources available for protection, development of wider conservation programmes in protected areas and benefit staff and local communities. Private rhino owners is South Africa are currentlyfighting their own government in the courts to get a moratorium on domestic trade in horn lifted. Their success would enable trade within South Africa but not legal exports of horn.


Ted Reilly (left) on top of a 60 foot ranger watchtower in Mkhaya Royal National park, Swaziland

NGO’s welcome continued ban
Western conservation and animal welfare NGO’s were jubilant about the vote against Swaziland’s proposals. Kelvin Alie, director of wildlife trade at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said ‘At a time when rhinoceros are more under threat than ever from poachers due to rapidly increasing black market prices in their horn, this decision by parties to deny Swaziland’s request to trade in white rhino horn is to be applauded.’ He didn’t, however, say how the fight to conserve rhinos could be sustainably financed without a legal trade.

The IFAW view and that of other NGOs is best summed up by a speech by Will Travers, head of the Born Free Foundation based in London. Debating the issue at London’s Royal Institution, he made it clear that he and many other NGO activists in the conservation field would never support a legal trade – even in natural mortality horn or horn removed without injury to the rhino to deter poachers from killing the animals (see The Conversation).

He believes Western governments and NGOs should finance conservation and enhanced anti-poaching in Africa range states – something which disempowers those states and hands power over their wildlife resources to NGOs and foreign governments. But this would add to local populations’ sense of alienation from wildlife. In addition, it may increase the likelihood that they will help poachers as they feel that have no power over their own wildlife and receive no benefit from it. Voicing the concern for a lack of sustainable income for conservation Tom Milken, the veteran monitor of international wildlife trade and its effects, said after the vote, ‘The underlying issue is, who pays for it?’

The answer is the NGOs that support a ban on all rhino horn trade. They are a major source of funds for conservation and use the funding, or the denial of it, to persuade countries to adopt anti-trade policies and move away from community-based, sustainable use approaches to wildlife. As the former head of the Natal Parks Board, David Cook and veteran South African conservationist John Hanks, told me recently, this approach denies countries like Swaziland, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, greater influence over rhino conservation policy and the chance for self-funding conservation and rural development.

What next?
The CITES vote against legal trade comes at a time when a brief period of optimism that the rate of poaching was being reduced by anti-poaching operations is being replaced by evidence of a sharp rise in poaching in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Just before the CITES meeting opened Edna Molewa,  South Africa’s minister of environmental affairs, confirmed 702 rhinos had been killed in the country as a whole this year, compared with 796 in the same period last year. She said between January and August 458 poached rhino carcasses were found in Kruger compared with 557 in 2015. But there is growing evidence that poaching has not been halted. It has been diverted from Kruger to other areas – particularly the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KZN.

On 23 September (Wold Rhino Day) the Hluhluwe Park reported that six rhinos had been found dead that day with their horns removed. This brought the number poached there to 113 this year – up 20 per cent on 2015. Twenty were killed in September alone. When I visited the park in early September, the head of rhino protection, Cedric Coetzee, said poaching gangs were switching to the park because of the tightening of security in Kruger National park and because, as I saw when I toured the park, the rhinos are easy to find. He said that whereas a poacher in Kruger might take two to three days to kill rhinos, in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi they could be in and out of the park in two to three hours having killed and removed the horns of several of the animals.

The KZN wildlife authorities are fighting back. Last month they announced that three poachers had been shot dead there. A spokesman for KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife (which runs the park) said in addition, so far this year rangers and the police had arrested 91 poachers, compared with 49 for the whole of 2015.

This demonstrates that with rhino horn fetching $65,000 a kilo in Vietnam and China, the illegal trade will persist. Poor rural dwellers, former professional hunters, corrupt ex-staff of wildlife parks and even some current wildlife personnel are part of a complex mix of people who work with criminal syndicates to poach rhinos and smuggle their horn. Anti-poaching patrols can kill or catch poachers but have had little success in smashing the syndicates, as Kruger Park’s chief ranger Nicholus Funda told me recently.


Black rhino in Mkhaya Royal National Park, Swaziland

A more realistic mix, biting the bullet of adopting regulated trade that brings in funds to make conservation self-sustaining seems to me the only answer in the long run. The rejection of the Swazi bid will not end attempts to find solutions involving the reintroduction of legal and regulated trade, despite the emotively-expressed opposition of wildlife NGOs. Rhinos are in danger and new methods are needed, as the 39 years of a ban on all trade has not improved protection of the rhino. It has only created a continuing demand, hiked prices and encouraged poaching. Something new and effective is needed – fast!

South Africa – have Zuma and Guptas reached the parting of the ways?

Rand Daily Mail



How Jacob Zuma and the Guptas have parted ways

President Jacob Zuma’s association with the Guptas has been much reported. There is no question that he and his family business interests were entangled in such a way that he was compromised. Two revelations demonstrated how deep this entanglement ran.

The deputy minister of finance, Mcebisi Jonas, revealed that the Guptas had offered him the position of finance minister, an extraordinary breech of Zuma’s responsibility to hire and fire ministers.

And Themba Maseko revealed how he was removed from his position as government spokesman after he failed to humour the Guptas.

The conventional wisdom is that Zuma is in the Gupta’s pockets and he will always do their bidding.

Except, he hasn’t. Not recently anyway.

We may have entered the post-Zupta era, one in which the Guptas no longer require the services of Zuma. His ability to install or remove ministers without the concurrence of Luthuli House has been severely curtailed following the failed attempt to appoint Des van Rooyen as finance minister.

More than that, he is a political liability. What happens when he goes?

It could be that the Guptas are now working directly through the ministers they influence, cutting out the middle-man as it were.

This is, in some respects, a more frightening scenario. It suggests that big chunks of government business are being conducted without the knowledge of cabinet or the president in collusion with a private party.

How else do you explain the strange case of Mosebenzi Zwane? The minerals minister waited for Zuma to be out of the country before announcing that cabinet had agreed to rein in financial regulators and to investigate banks over their refusal to bank the Guptas.

If the old Zuma-Gupta relationship was still functioning, Zuma would have remained silent or, at least, issued a statement fudging the issue, perhaps even stating that he concurred with Zwane’s viewpoint but that the fellow had taken it too far.

Instead, Zuma roundly condemned Zwane’s statement and made it plain that no such cabinet discussion had taken place. These hostile actions were hardly those of an ally.

Here’s what the statement said:

The unfortunate contents of the (Zwane) statement and the inconvenience and confusion caused by the issuing thereof, are deeply regretted. Zwane does not speak on behalf of Cabinet and the contents of his statement do not reflect the position or views of Cabinet, the Presidency or government. 

Although I must stress that there is no evidence that the head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Shaun Abrahams, is on the Gupta pay-roll, a similar scenario played itself out in recent days.

Zuma was out of the country. Abrahams announced that the finance minister, Pravin Gordhan – the number one thorn in the flesh of the Guptas – would face fraud charges over an HR decision about the early retirement of a SARS official.

Zuma, we now know, was kept informed of developments through the justice minister, Michael Masutha. But when he commented on the issue, he hardly issued a ringing endorsement.

This time, he said:

Our society is anchored on the rule of law as well as fair and just judicial processes. In this regard, Minister Gordhan is innocent until and unless proven otherwise by a court of law. This is a fundamental pillar of our constitutional democracy and the rule of law.

The accompanying statement read:

The President has reaffirmed his support for the Minister and added that the decision by the NPA came at the most sensitive time for the country when Minister Gordhan was successfully leading initiatives towards economic revival, bringing together business, government and labour in efforts to reignite growth so that jobs can be saved and created.
Again, hardly a ringing endorsement of the prosecution of Gordhan.

The following day, Abrahams prepared the ground for a strategic retreat, saying the decision to charge Gordhan had not been his and that Gordhan could review the case if he so wished.

What appears to be taking place is that the ANC is holding Zuma in check, controlling his public responses and ensuring that there is distance between himself and the Guptas.

You can, of course, develop a convoluted, wag-the-dog theory about how Zuma is behind it all, manipulating everything while presenting a different face to the public. But sometimes, the obvious explanation is the obvious explanation.

There is no doubt that Zuma would love to fire Gordhan and he may still do so. But, if he does, he will be breaking ranks with the ANC consensus and find himself more politically isolated.

South Africa – Zuma says there is no war with the treasury and complains of abuse in parliament



South African President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday that the Presidency was not at war with the Treasury after reports that an elite police unit was investigating Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Some analysts say Zuma’s allies are behind the investigation in a bid to remove Gordhan, but Zuma denied this was the case.

“There is no war between the Presidency and the Treasury. I am clarifying that point. It must be as clear as anything – there is no war between the Presidency and the Treasury,” he told parliament in answer to a question.

BD Live

I am being abused in Parliament, Jacob Zuma complains

President Jacob Zuma. Picture:  REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

“Each time I come here I am abused‚” President Jacob Zuma said in the National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon‚ after his scheduled question-and-answer time session was again disrupted by the opposition EFF.

The exasperated President said: “Instead of answering questions‚ I am called a criminal … a thief. This House has to do something.”

The red berets tried to stop Zuma from speaking on Tuesday and staged a walkout‚ saying they would not listen to him. This incident took place almost four months after Zuma’s last appearance in the National Assembly (May 17)‚ which was marred by the forceful removal of EFF MPs from the House‚ after they had also refused to be addressed by the President then.

On Tuesday‚ Zuma signalled that the heckling was difficult for him to sit through and that he did not think it was fair to expect him to face people who were disrespecting the house of Parliament.

“It is very difficult to me to do my constitutional duty‚” he said.” …If this House is not interested in me answering questions‚ then don’t call me.”

TMG Digital


South Africa – will ANC go for more populist economic policies

Mail and Guardian

There is a risk that the ANC could turn to more populist measures, including breaching expenditure ceilings or “redistributive regulatory policies” that might undermine economic growth, to address rising voter dissatisfaction. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)
There is a risk that the ANC could turn to more populist measures, including breaching expenditure ceilings or “redistributive regulatory policies” that might undermine economic growth, to address rising voter dissatisfaction. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress is leaning toward more populist economic policies to win back support after its worst performance in an election since Nelson Mandela led the party to victory in a vote that ended apartheid in 1994.

The ANC will press the government to prioritise creating jobs and alleviating poverty in the national budget at the four-day Cabinet meeting that started Tuesday, secretary general Gwede Mantashe said after the party’s top decision-making body met last weekend. The party also mandated the government to speed up the process of implementing a national minimum wage and said the nation’s universities shouldn’t announce any fee increases.

The shift in policy is an attempt to secure support from the 27 percent of the workforce without jobs and to dim the appeal of the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters party that’s winning voters over in traditional ANC strongholds. To pay for it, the government may need to boost debt and risk a credit-rating downgrade to junk or raise taxes again and further alienate the urban middle class that shunned the ruling party in the August 3 municipal election.

“It sounds to me like they want to enact a greater degree of what I would call, fiscal populism,” Russell Lamberti, chief strategist at ETM Analytics, said by phone from Cape Town on Monday. “We potentially are heading down the scenario here where they respond to election defeat by using fiscal policy in a more activist way, and that leads us down downgrade territory.”

There is a risk that the 104-year-old ANC could turn to more populist measures, including breaching expenditure ceilings or “redistributive regulatory policies” that might undermine economic growth, to address rising voter dissatisfaction, Fitch Ratings said on August 5. While Fitch and S&P Global Ratings affirmed South Africa’s credit rating at BBB-, one level above junk, in June, they said the government must take decisive steps to bolster growth, quell policy uncertainty and end political turmoil to avoid a future downgrade.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan pledged in his February budget to narrow the fiscal deficit to 2.4% of gross domestic product by 2019, from 3.9% last year, and limit gross debt to 50.5% of GDP in three years by reining in spending and increasing taxes. The government will stick to the fiscal consolidation targets and objectives set out in the budget, the Treasury said last week.

“I would not, at the moment, blame ratings agencies for reading into this statement a shift towards not just populism, but more extraction from public resources,” Iraj Abedian, chief executive officer at Pan-African Investments and Research Services in Johannesburg, said by phone on Monday.

The ANC’s senior leaders absolved President Jacob Zuma of blame for the party’s election performance even as a series of scandals surrounding him contributed to voter discontent. Zuma was forced to name Gordhan as finance minister, a position he held between 2009 and 2014, in December when business and political leaders persuaded him to backtrack on a decision to appoint a little-known lawmaker to the position, after the rand and bonds plunged.

Gordhan is leading efforts to avoid a credit-rating downgrade and has met with business and labor leaders and investors to come up with measures to boost confidence in an economy that the central bank projects won’t expand this year. The ANC’s statement could put renewed strain on the relationship between the finance minister, who has said he will maintain the spending ceiling, and Zuma and his party, according to George Herman, head of South African investments at Cape Town-based Citadel Investment Services.

The decisions in the ruling party’s statement are a way to “score very quick, easy, short-term goals” with voters, Herman said by phone. If the government announces new spending plans “financial markets and the ratings agencies will be very concerned.” – Bloomberg

South Africa – DA and EFF cry foul over procedure for new public protector

BD Live

BY STAFF WRITER  AUGUST 11 2016, 08:39
Floyd Shivambu.  Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Floyd Shivambu. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA




THURSDAY’s marathon session to find a new public protector stalled before it even started.

EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu threatened that the selection committee’s decision would face a possible legal challenge to its processes if it went ahead‚ which would “nullify” any decision.

He said he had concerns about the shortlisting process‚ and later added that the taxing schedule — that required all 14 candidates to be interviewed in a single day‚ the last scheduled to start at 11pm –— was inherently unfair.

ALSO READ: Concern over day for public protector interviews

Makhosi Khoza‚ chairperson of the ad hoc parliamentary committee established to nominate a replacement for advocate Thuli Madonsela‚ appeared to try dissuade Shivambu from his objections‚ saying all the issues had been brought up previously‚ and allow the interviews to proceed.

The DA was also not pleased with the schedule.

“It is the DA’s view that the manner of the programme is inherently impractical‚” Glynnis Breytenbach said.

By 8am‚ none of the candidates had been called — the first interview had been scheduled for 7am.

Khoza‚ however‚ noted the parties’ concerns before going on with the programme.

Candidates would be locked up to prevent them watching a live television broadcast of their peers fielding questions.

The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution’s executive secretary‚ Lawson Naidoo‚ asked if the punishing schedule would allow committee members to be “equally alert and vigilant at the end of the day as they are at the beginning”.

Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said: “We are also concerned that the length of time set aside for the public interviews will be particularly taxing on the ad hoc committee members‚ as well as the candidates who will be interviewed towards the end of the day.”

Khoza said on Wednesday that the rationale behind screening all candidates in a day was to “ensure that candidates do not have unfair advantage over others‚ as these interviews will be broadcast live.”

The provisional line-up of candidates to be interviewed on Thursday is:

• Advocate MM Mthembu, 7.45am-8.45am;

• Judge Sharise Erica Weiner, 8.50am-9.50am;

• Advocate Chris Madibeng Mokoditwa, 9.55am-10.55am;

• Judge Serajudien Desai, 11am-noon;

• Adjunct Professor Narnia Bohler-Muller, 12.05pm-1.05pm;

• Advocate Mamiki Thabitha Goodman, 1.50-2.50pm;

• Busisiwe Mkhwebane, 2.55pm-3.55pm;

• Jill Claudelle Oliphant, 4pm-5pm;

• Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh 5.05pm-6.05pm

• Advocate Kevin Sifiso Malunga, 6.10-7.10pm;

• William Andrew Hofmeyr, 7.45pm-8.45pm;

• Muvhango Antoinette Lukhaimane, 8.50pm-9.50pm

• Prof Bongani Majola, 9.55pm-10.55pm; and

• Advocate Nonkosi Princess Cetywayo, 11pm-midnight.

TMG Digital

South Africa – local elections change political landscape

BD Live

The ANC is not in a growth phase. For the past decade its trajectory has been downhill as it grapples with a radically changed opposition. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

The ANC is not in a growth phase. For the past decade its trajectory has been downhill as it grapples with a radically changed opposition. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

AMID recriminations and celebrations, the final results of the 2016 local government elections late on Saturday showed that SA’s political landscape has been fundamentally altered, with the governing party’s share of the vote falling from 62% to 54%, and governing by coalition set to be the order of the day in key municipalities.

This is the first time since SA’s transition to democracy in 1994 that the ANC’s support has fallen below 60%, reflecting the lethal combination of a compromised president, a limping economy, factional battles within the party and poor service delivery in many municipalities.

The ANC will this week begin the difficult process of assessing where it went wrong, in a national working committee meeting which is scheduled for Monday. This will be followed by a national executive committee meeting on Friday, which will precede an ANC national executive committee lekgotla.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe on Sunday said it would be a long process of introspection for the party to assess what went wrong. He declined to provide an “ad hoc analysis”.

In a significant development, several of the larger opposition parties are understood to be planning to meet in Gauteng on Monday to pursue potentially tough coalition talks.

For the official opposition, the DA, the poll results usher in a new era that has opened up the possibility of governing outside its Western Cape stronghold.

The EFF, which contested a municipal election for the first time, now has a footprint in municipalities across the country, and is set to be a kingmaker in key metropolitan municipalities as it decides whether to use its seats to bolster the ANC or the DA, particularly in Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Mogale City, where neither large party won an outright majority.

The results show that the ANC is losing its grip on urban areas across SA. Even in its stronghold provinces, which are largely rural, its support fell by unprecedented levels. In the North West, the ANC dropped from 74% in 2011 to 54% in 2016; in the Eastern Cape it fell from 71% to 65%; in the Free State from 71% in 2011 to 62%; in Limpopo from 81% to 69%; and in Mpumalanga from 78% to 71%.

Its support grew marginally in KwaZulu-Natal from 56.7% in 2011 to 57.4% in 2016. Zuma supporters have blamed the Gauteng ANC leadership for the decline in support in key metros in the province, and talk that the party will suspend the provincial executive committee has not abated.

At the results announcement on Saturday, four EFF members staged a silent protest in front of Zuma as he spoke, displaying posters harking back to the rape accusations of which he was acquitted 10 years ago. Insiders described the surprise protest as an embarrassment, and an illustration of why the ANC’s support in urban areas was eroding fast.

The poll also suggested a revival in the fortunes of the Inkatha Freedom Party, after its breakaway — the National Freedom Party — failed to register on time.

The ANC’s national support slipped from 61.9% in 2011 to 53.9% in 2016; the DA’s from 23.9% in 2011 to 26.9% in 2016; and the EFF obtained 8.2% of the vote.

The final numbers suggest that many former ANC voters stayed away, split their votes or voted for the opposition, the EFF in the main, but also the DA.

Voter turnout at 57.9% was slightly higher than the 57.6% in 2011, but about 1.5-million more people registered to vote than in the last poll.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the character of the DA was clearly in flux, and the party had already started to adjust the way it operated, increasing its support in townships in Gauteng, the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape. Maimane said its presence in the country’s economic hub of Gauteng had to be reviewed and beefed up — particularly ahead of 2019, where the party would move to capture the province.

EFF leader Julius Malema said the election would help the party ahead of 2019 as it now had a footprint and councillors across the country, who would assist the party with resources going forward to the next election. “This money thing is big,” he said, describing how costly fighting an election campaign could be.

Malema’s party would enter into coalition talks with anyone who approached it, he said.

South Africa – Court says Zuma must pay back R7.8m Nkandla money within 45 days

BD Live

BY NATASHA MARRIAN,  26 JULY 2016, 15:28
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma must pay the R7.8m he owes for the Nkandla upgrades by September to comply with a Constitutional Court order.

He has 45 days in which to pay the money, following the Constitutional Court’s approval on Tuesday of the amount as stipulated by the National Treasury.

The National Treasury calculated that Zuma should pay 87.9% of the cost of five items deemed non-security by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in her 2014 report, Secure in Comfort, on security upgrades amounting to R246m at Zuma’s homestead at Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal. This amounted to R7.8m. The Treasury last month submitted to the court the “reasonable percentage” it had determined.

Zuma had refused to take responsibility for the excessive spending, the ANC vilified Madonsela and there were raucous confrontations in Parliament between the ANC and the EFF, which taunted Zuma with the slogan: “Pay back the money”. Zuma offered to pay only after the EFF took him to court.

In a Constitutional Court judgment handed down at the end of March, Zuma was found to have failed to uphold, defend and protect the Constitution in his handling of Madonsela’s report on Nkandla.

The amount determined by the Treasury was reached through a rigorous process involving two firms of quantity surveyors and a panel of six experts from the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) and the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors. (ASAQS). They had volunteered their services and the Treasury accepted to ensure “objectivity” and “maintain independence” in the process. The two firms did not have contact with one another and held site visits separately.

The Public Works Department was asked to provide construction and engineering drawings to aid the quantity surveyors. However, according to the Treasury report, some of the drawings provided were incomplete, incorrect or not reflective of what was actually built.

The costs of the five items — the visitors’ centre, swimming pool, amphitheatre, cattle kraal and chicken run — were estimated at 2016 prices and adjusted for 2009 values, as that is when the construction took place.

At the time the Constitutional Court ordered that Zuma “personally pay the amount determined by the Treasury” within 45 days of the court approving the Treasury’s report.