Open letter to the Minister BP Sonjica, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs regarding "Proposed indaba on hunting industry concerns" from the UDM President and Member of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs (8 September) (copied to MM Sotyu, Chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Water & Environmental Affairs)

The abovementioned matter refers.

In 2005 I wrote to the Minister of Tourism & Environmental Affairs regarding the issue of commercial hunting outfits profiting from the killing of animals within the Kruger National Park (KNP). This happened because animals strayed into private nature reserves since the fences had been removed, ostensibly to ‘expand’ the conservation area.

The effect is that animals which the South African public and taxpayers are paying to have protected are hunted – usually by rich foreign hunters – for obscene amounts of money, which go straight into the pockets of the hunting operators. It is simply not justifiable that a property owner adjacent to a national park can profit from the hunting of animals which he/she knows does not originate from their lands, purely because they have a hunting licence.

At the time we warned against the many loopholes that exist, as well as the obvious lack of an integrated, nationally-applicable policy and legal framework to govern hunting. This issue also relates to the question of canned hunting – a practice that runs contrary to the ethics and objectives of conservation and sustainable development.

The former Minister eventually announced a temporary moratorium on hunting and appointed a panel to investigate the matter, but it is now becoming clear that canned hunting and the hunting of KNP animals has not only continued, but expanded in the past few years.

It must also be noted that in the same period we have seen a massive increase in the amount of rhino that have been killed for their ivory.

It is vital that this time we intervene and address this matter once and for all. We cannot tolerate the wanton destruction of our national heritage. The benefits of the hunting industry to the national economy are highly debatable, whilst eco-tourism with its known economic benefits and sustainability is under threat from unregulated hunting. In order to rescue the situation I would propose the following steps should be taken:

a.      Department of Environmental Affairs organise an Indaba of all the stakeholders, such as SANParks, private game reserve owners, Department of Tourism, Non-governmental  Organisations, provincial government, local and traditional authorities and affected areas, as well as the relevant Portfolio Committees.

b.      The previous ministerial panel’s report should also be discussed in such an Indaba.

c.      Resolutions arrived at by the Indaba should inform the drafting of a comprehensive national legal framework to govern hunting.

The abovementioned process would go a long way towards addressing the concerns about unregulated hunting which is proving to be an embarrassment for our country. At the same time it would be transparent and include wide consultation so that nobody can claim afterwards that such a comprehensive legal framework was drafted to benefit a specific interest group.

I therefore appeal to your good offices to address this matter urgently.

Kindly advise

Bantu Holomisa, MP
UDM President