EDTEA MEC mends fences with communities living in fear of lions preying on their livestock in Nongoma, pledges urgent interventions
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube has assured the communities of Nongoma, bordering the Hluhluwe-Mfolozi Park of an immediate government intervention following a string of lion attacks decimating their livestock.
Dube-Ncube announced a surfeit of strategic government interventions by both the department of EDTEA and its entity, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to bring relief to communities of Ngolotshe, Masokeni and other surrounding areas of Nongoma in their to push back against lions, leopards and hyenas incursion.
The wild animals have been responsible for a spate of livestock killings following damage to the fence.
So dire is the situation that the local residents had resorted to hunting down lions and killing them.
The provincial cabinet this week received a report from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife on the escape of lions from Hluhluwe-Mfolozi Park. The report stated that 13 lions had escaped through a damaged fence around the reserve.
This resulted in 19 cows and five donkeys being obliterated ostensibly by lions. Two lions were killed by the community while 10 others were put down by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. One lion is said to be still on the loose and continuing unabatedly with the reign of terror. It is being sought by game rangers.
The issue had already caused huge rifts between the community and the management of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife requiring urgent government intervention.
Addressing hundreds of local residents, izinduna and stockowners at Ngolotshe Primary School on Saturday afternoon EDTEA MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube pledged immediate government response.
She apologised about strained relations between the residents and the management of Hluhluwe-Mfolozi Park.
"We shall put a stop to this challenge. We have already fixed many parts of the fence and we don't want this to happen again. We apologise for having put your lives under such conditions," she said.
A policy by Ezemvelo which only compensated those victims whose livestock is killed by lions and which excludes paying damages to those whose livestock is killed by leopards had caused huge consternation among the residents.
Dube-Ncube said this policy will be reviewed.
"This policy will be reviewed urgently, it would be an injustice if we compensate others and exclude other victims whose livestock is also killed by wildlife which has escaped from the game park," she said.
Dube-Ncube said the department will build relations and mend fences with communities.
"This game reserve is your asset. It exists because of you, surely we can co-exist," she said.
Addressing socio-economic issues also facing the communities, Dube-Ncube said the department will use the Expanded Public Works Programme to give employment opportunities to residents.
Also topping intervention was the issue of levies generated by the Hluhluwe-Mfolozi Park saying such dividends should be a benefit derived by the communities.
"These opportunities should be distributed equally among all residents and all traditional councils that borders the game park. We will also attend to issues of water and sanitation and Ezemvelo will ensure that your jojo tanks are filled with water as there's no water here," she said.
Dube-Ncube said the issue of water tanks will decrease chances of people going to the rivers and exposing themselves to wildlife.
Issued by: KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs