Tourism and the associated jobs are under siege in this province, because the Department of Environmental Affairs is spending too much money on consultants, and not enough on environmental protection. There’s not even enough money for law enforcement officers to drive the length and breadth of this province to protect the environment and save us from poachers.
The MEC for DEDEAT, Mlungisi Mvoko, must immediately ring fence funding currently spent on consultants and channel it to increase the capability and reach of the anti-poaching and environmental protection units of the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT) in the Eastern Cape.
He must also explain why the DEDEAT administration programme, which has a budget of R248 million supposedly to fill vacant funded posts, requires a further R8,17 million for “Consultants and Professional Services”.
Surely, if people with the necessary skills and capacity had been employed in the first place, consultants would not be necessary?
Even more concerning is the fact that in the Environmental Affairs Programme, an additional R7,67 million has been allocated for exactly the same “Consultants and Professional Services”, while the budget for Subsistence and Travel is just R2,66 million.
This means that the custodians of our natural heritage such as environmental law enforcement officers, biodiversity and conservation officers and our legendary Green Scorpions, who are expected to travel the length and breadth of a province spanning 16,9 million hectares to apprehend the ever increasing numbers of poachers, do not have sufficient budget to fill their tanks and do their work.
In the private sector, a reserve of 25 000 hectares budgets R6 million per annum for their Anti -Poaching Units.
To put the subsistence and travel budget into perspective, the board members of the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency – who sit four times a year at most – cost R2,5 million per annum. This is almost as much as the entire Subsistence and Travel budget for the Environmental Affairs programme.
Environmental law enforcement is crucial in safeguarding our natural heritage, which is under huge threat as our economy weakens and jobs are shed. The best way to guarantee economic recovery in the Eastern Cape is to enhance tourism activity.
This will only happen if we effectively manage and conserve our biodiversity, as per the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency’s mandate. Tourists do not want to visit a province under siege by poachers, and this will happen if we do not give our law enforcement teams the necessary financial support to fulfil this mandate.
The DA will continue to fight for fair budgets for our conservation and environmental law enforcement teams, so that effective management of our natural heritage can enhance and promote tourism to this beautiful province.