Ezemvelo calls up “Old Guard”

Former colleagues have hailed as an “exceptionally magnanimous gesture of leadership” the decision by chief executive Dr Bandile Mkhize to open Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s doors to the expertise and lifelong commitment of former employees of provincial conservation authorities.

Mkhize has created a “strategic support committee” – a consultative forum of former staff members of the Natal Parks Board (NPB), KwaZulu Directorate of Nature Conservation and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. He has said this would help erase the “ugliness and bitterness” of the past and allow Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to engage with an “unprecedented quota of expertise and experience that lies on our doorstep”.

Eight former staff members, casualties of the bitter and destructive process in which the former KwaZulu Directorate of Nature Conservation and the Natal Parks Board were amalgamated in 1998, have responded to Mkhize’s overtures.

They said in a joint comment: “This is a wonderful expression of leadership on Dr Mkhize’s behalf. Yes, most of us are retired, but the passion and willingness to offer assistance to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife burn strongly. We are only too keen to heed (Mkhize’s) call in whatever arena he sees fit.”

A former senior executive said the significance of Mkhize’s gesture should not be underestimated. Some members of the new strategic support committee, above. From left are: Roger Porter, Dr George Hughes, Peter Thomson, Drummond Densham, Dave Cook and Dr John Vincent.

“This is an outstanding gesture. The fallout of dedicated people who were not only hugely qualified and experienced, but had given their lives to all matters conservation in KZN was enormous.

“It was a dreadful period that at its heart had everything to do with the political divide between the two competing organisations and the machinations that ensued.”

Although many others also lost their jobs, the amalgamation involved the removal of about nine executive members, people with decades of irreplaceable experience.

Roger Porter, who was the head of planning for the then-Natal Parks Board and who is enthusiastic about the new committee, said: “Few people have grasped the huge pressures Ezemvelo has to manage now. In many respects it is a young organisation working within… severe budgetary constraints, a depressed global economy and high expectations from its adjacent communities.

“To add to this they are confronted with this sophisticated onslaught from rhino poachers.” Porter said the move was “an excellent example of how best to utilise intellectual capital in the face of these burgeoning demands”.

Mkhize’s overture looked to the future of conservation in KwaZulu-Natal. Mkhize said: “This merger involved a regrettable and unnecessary loss of some of the finest conservation minds in South Africa, let alone KZN. No organisation can afford to ignore both this scientific and practical excellence as well as the wealth of experience, whatever the past circumstances might have been.”

Mkhize asked everyone to understand that there had been “many casualties” of South Africa’s past. “But I am not a man to dwell on these. I look forward. Yes, perhaps the NPB had some failings, but its successes and record of excellence way surpassed these issues. In many respects these were anyway determined by the politics of the day and to a degree, the overturning of the injustices of our apartheid past.”

Mkhize said “Ezemvelo staff should acknowledge the goodwill that came with this huge resource of experience now being made available. “We now have in place a forum that embraces an open exchange of critical ideas and a dialogue amongst willing partners.”

The proposal to establish the strategic support committee has been approved by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s board. Its terms of reference have yet to be drawn up, but the committee’s role may be viewed as broadly advisory and providing assistance. The committee members so far are David Cook, Porter, Dr George Hughes, Drummond Densham, Dr John Vincent, Peter Thomson, Dr Ian Player and Paul Phelan.

These members have been pivotal in helping to draw up the organisation’s recent proposal to the government that trade in rhino horns should be legalised. This executive document supported Mkhize’s efforts to recognise the value of rhino horn and to conserve and protect the species from poachers by replacing the illegal trade with legal sales.

July 31 2012 at 02:08pm
By Daily News Correspondent

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