The DA plans to conduct an oversight visit to two game reserves after a controversial exchange of three white rhino for 10 buffaloes between the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality-owned game reserve and a privately owned one.
The three rhino, a two-year-old male and two cows aged two and six years, were exchanged for two male and eight female buffaloes.
According to DA councillor Sakhumzi Mkhunqe, the transaction happened without a council resolution in 2018.
What raised further eyebrows for the DA councillor was that the buffaloes had not arrived at EMLM-owned Lawrence de Lange Nature Reserve, while the white rhino were taken from the reserve.
Mkhunqe said the municipality claimed the reason the buffaloes had not been transferred was due to damaged fencing at the game reserve, which they said could lead to escapes. He questioned the legitimacy of the claims, saying it boggled the mind how the rest of the wildlife remained in the nature reserve without escaping.
Mkhunqe also said the DA wrote a letter alerting EMLM mayor Luleka Gubula, municipal manager Nokuthula Mgijima and speaker Bongiwe Van Heerden about the oversight visit.
“In our letter we inquired about where the resolution was for an exchange for the rhinos,” Mkhunqe said.
“We are going to the game reserves to make sure the rhinos and buffaloes are indeed there.
“We also want to know if the buffaloes have given birth during this period.
“When we get this information we will take further steps.”
Mkhunqe said another concern was how the exchange transaction was not recorded in the municipality’s financial report.
EMLM spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said the buffaloes were being kept by the previous owner until the municipality ordered him to deliver the animals.
“At this stage they cannot be delivered because the fence needs to be replaced with a safer one.
“This was planned for previous financial years but due to cash flow challenges faced by the municipality, the fence has not yet been replaced.
“The rhinos were delivered to the new owner after the exchange process was concluded.
“The exchange was a business decision aimed at adding variety to what the game reserve can offer.”
Kowa confirmed the municipality received a letter from the DA and that a meeting had been scheduled for last week.
However, he said the meeting could not take place due to a Covid-19 case at the Komani town hall.
“A new date will be agreed upon and the contents of the letter which contains a number of issues regarding the game reserve will be discussed,” Kowa said.