The Department of Environmental Affairs has clarified the processes associated with the domestic trade in rhino horn.
There has been misrepresentation claiming that South Africa does not have systems in place to ensure that any prospective domestic sale of rhino horn takes place in a strictly regulated manner - and does not contribute to an increase in the illegal international trade.
However the department on Thursday said legislative provisions are in place to ensure the domestic trade in rhino horn is strictly controlled and that the prohibition of the commercial international trade by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is not violated.
"The current regulatory regime includes, amongst others, NEMBA, TOPS Regulations, Rhino N&S and provincial. Additional measures are being taken to tighten legislation with regard to the domestic trade in rhino horn," the department said.
From February 2017, three sets of regulatory measures were published for public comment. These include the draft regulations to regulate and control the domestic trade in rhino horn; the prohibition of the intentional powdering or shaving of rhino horn and the domestic sale and export thereof; and the listing of the Eastern Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) as a protected species in South Africa.
The department said it is processing the comments received during the public participation process, and has subjected the draft regulatory measures to the cooperative governance system, after which the Parliamentary process for approval will commence.
On a claim that Minister Edna Molewa is 'acting irresponsibly' by allowing the on-line auction, or any sale/ trade domestically in rhino horn, the department said government has a Constitutional mandate and a duty in terms of the NEMBA to regulate the domestic trade of rhino horn.
"To this effect, the department's responsibility encompasses the evaluation of each application on its own merits, making a decisions based on information submitted by the applicant, taking into account existing legal requirements, and has the right to refuse or issue a permit with or without conditions."
The department said it places value on the need to monitor the movement of the horns, and for this reason systems are in place to enable the department to do that and such include the permitting system, marking requirements, maintenance of a national database for rhino horn, and the DNA profile of each horn.
"It should be emphasized that the planned sale of rhino horn by private rhino owners is for domestic trade only. Domestic trade in rhino horn is subject to the issuance of the relevant permits in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No 10 of 2004) (NEMBA), its regulations and applicable provincial legislation."
It said the Environmental Management Inspectors (EMIs) of both the Department of Environmental Affairs and provincial conservation authorities monitor compliance with the relevant regulations and requirements, while it added that the international trade in rhino horn for commercial purposes is prohibited.
"As of today, no permits have been issued by the national Department of Environmental Affairs to sellers or buyers of rhino horn in terms of the permitted domestic trade," the department explained.
It also dismissed claims that the legalization of the domestic trade in rhino horn will result in increased illegal trade in rhino horn as they there has been no such sale of rhino horn since poaching started increasing in 2008.
South African authorities have improved their ability to track the movement of rhino horn through the implementation of a national database and systems relating to the marking of rhino horn and genetic profiling.
"We have further improved our detection ability at ports of entry and exit by increasing awareness, human capacity, technology and skills. This is evident in the increased number of confiscations, arrests and convictions."
The department added that there is no evidence which has been presented to date that indicates that a causal link between the introduction of the moratorium and rhino poaching.