Coast KZN

26 Jul 2017

Ezemvelo and its chief to part ways

Barbara Cole (Daily News) Picture: David Mabunda


DURBAN – Speculation that David Mabunda, the chief executive of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, was going to resign this month was proven correct on Tuesday when a farewell briefing session took place for him.

Mabunda said that after “some serious soul-searching and negotiations”, he and the new board had agreed to part ways at the end of the month. He stressed that the parting was amicable and mutual.

“I have not misappropriated or stolen the organisation’s money,” he said at the event at the Queen Elizabeth Park, Pietermaritzburg.

Recent media allegations of a power struggle between the board and management were “incorrect and mischievous”, he said, adding that people came and went in any institution.

“In the next year or two, who knows, there may as well be no Ezemvelo in its present form, but a new entity with a new leadership from board to management if the current rationalisation of public entities is anything to go by.”

Thanking the new board under the leadership of chairperson Zwile Zulu for its contributions in the past six months since its appointment, he said the board’s term of office was the most difficult he could think of in more than three decades in the conservation sector.

“You are expected to turn a savannah forest into a grassland overnight with very limited resources.

“Meaningful success will only come when all levels of the organisation pull in the same direction. A tug-of-war will tear this organisation apart and leave it with a permanent scar of dysfunctionality.”

Mabunda recalled his appointment as the chief executive in November 2014 was only meant to be temporary and was initially for six months with the mandate being to, among other things, start a process to reverse the ill-fated migration restructuring, recover monies paid to the beneficiaries of migration, stabilise the organisation and restore discipline.

“We worked well together and achieved most of our set objectives,” he said. “My appointment was synonymous to a rescue mission, to pull the organisation out of the quagmire.”

Despite success in the resuscitation, the organisation was hit “by a tsunami in the form of the moratorium of the filling of vacant posts and the debilitating budget cuts which affected our ability to execute our mandate”.

Ezemvelo had particularly suffered heavily because of its long history of under-funding and the inability to spend, he said.


“It’s been an uphill struggle to find sufficient funds to run the organisation optimally.”

At the beginning of the month, he was inaugurated as an honorary professor in natural sciences after his nomination by the Oxford Academic Union.

His new role demanded that he operate in an academic environment where the primary objective was research development in different fields, with projects taking him out of the office for months on end.

“Given the lack of black experts in environmental sciences, it is my intention to focus on the training and development of conservation practitioners/managers, researchers and scientists at different levels and that cannot be done while serving as the chief executive of a public entity.”

Having played his part in terms of his mandate, the only thing left was to continue to make the organisation financially viable, modernise it and convert it into a stylish 21st century progressive conservation agency.

Staff should look forward to coming to work every day and “it can never be right to turn our workplace into a haven of gossip, booby traps, pain and despair. The chaos, mistrust and tensions created in 2014 should never revisit these shores ever”.

“Ezemvelo’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it,” he predicted.

The board chairperson told Mabunda that the organisation was grateful that he had answered their call when they needed him, and they would gladly tap into his experience if opportunities presented themselves.

Mabunda was the former chief executive of the Kruger National Park and South African National Parks.

The new acting chief executive of Ezemvelo would be Sthabiso Chiliza “until further notice”, a media statement said on Tuesday.