The Democratic Alliance (DA) will intensify oversight following the worrying revelation that the services, infrastructure and quality of Free State provincial government-run reserves and resorts are in decline.
In reply to questions by the DA in the Free State Legislature, the MEC for the Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Mr Makalo Mohale, supplied a dismal picture of these important previous income generating establishments.
When considering the current state of management infrastructure and ecological integrity of the 14 provincial reserves, none are in an excellent condition, 4 are in good condition, 9 are fair and one (Maria Moroka Nature Reserve) is in a poor condition. Of the 10 provincial resorts, seven were in a good condition and three in a fair condition. While three resorts previously had three star ratings (Gariep Resort, Koppies Dam Resort and Tussen Riviere Resort), one a four star rating (Maria Moroka) and one a two star rating (Willem Pretorius Resort); currently only Gariep Resort has a one star rating, whilst Tussen Riviere Resort has a two star rating.
The reply by the MEC also indicates that of perimeter fencing at the 14 provincial nature reserves are in a serious state of disrepair with 35,7% being in a good condition, 35,7% in a fair condition and 28,6% in poor condition. Furthermore, these reserves are overstocked, are all currently under threat due to deteriorating perimeter fences, experience poaching, illegal grazing and lack of human resources to prepare fire breaks and do regular maintenance and monitoring. Although all the provincial reserves are experiencing similar problems, the most serious are the Caledon Nature Reserve that is currently experiencing illegal grazing due to broken down fences. Gariep Dam Reserve is experiencing poaching at an “alarming rate”, Maria Moroka Reserve is experiencing poaching, illegal grazing and trespassing and Rustfontein Dam Reserve is experiencing fence theft, trespassing, hunting with dogs, and illegal grazing that is threatening the wellbeing of wildlife.
The provincial reserves and resorts remain provincial assets that should be sustainable employment creating income generating assets to the province and the provincial government. The state of these provincial assets and the threats to wildlife due to the determinate infrastructure and neglect is criminal in nature.
It remains ironic that the Department showed so much interest in the welfare of animals at the Bloemfontein Zoo and even took some of these animals to provincial resorts where they can be poached without supervision, while its own house is not in order.
The DA will continue to do oversight over these resorts that will only deteriorate further until the province sees a change in government. The DA in government will prioritise income generating and job creating reserves and resorts that also serve as important leisure industry and ecological and environmental provincial assets.