Environmental Affairs buckles under staff shortages

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism

At a time when our province is under siege by poachers targeting wild animals, indigenous plants and several marine species, critical vacancies in the enforcement and compliance components of the Department of Environmental Affairs have not been filled.

The lack of environmental law enforcement is undermining our economy.

The wanton plundering by organised poaching syndicates has a devastating impact on the province’s natural heritage and poses a significant risk to the region’s unique biodiversity, which is, among others, a major tourism driver.

These resources have come under even more strain in recent months, as the worsening economic conditions due to the covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, have driven individuals to subsistence poaching to survive.

It is therefore unthinkable that these vacancies would not be filled!

In response to a parliamentary question to the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) MEC Mlungisi Mvoko, it was revealed that only two thirds of the Compliance and Enforcement positions in the Department of Environmental Affairs are filled, while only 56% of Biodiversity Conservation and Coastal Zone Management positions are filled.

SEE: IQP 30 response 706

These vacant posts are part of the Department’s organogram, and are budgeted for, to an estimated tune of R1,4 million a month. If these posts are not filled within the current financial year, there is a real danger that they could be reabsorbed.

These critical vacancies place additional strain on the already overstretched men and women at the coal face in the fight against illegal poaching, hunting and fishing activities, who have to pick up the additional workload.

These dedicated individuals are already thinly spread across the province, which is vast, with poor road infrastructure and an extensive coastline which requires full time monitoring.

I will be writing to MEC Mvoko to urge him to prioritise the filling of all vacant funded posts within the current financial year to enhance environmental compliance

The sustainability of the Eastern Cape economy, and our efforts at creating new opportunities for our citizens, relies on the sound management of our natural resources for both the current and future generations.