Archive for the 'Rhino' Category

26
May
13

Mozambique poaching in SA – an “Act of Terrorism” : Open letter to Parliament

AU.Earth.Afrika.Terrorism.banner.02

An open letter from EARTH AFRIKA to Adv. J. H. de Lange, MP, Chairperson of South Africa’s parliamentary portfolio committee on water and environmental affairs:
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26 May 2013

Adv. J. H. de Lange, MP
Chairperson: Portfolio Committee – Water and Environmental Affairs
National Assembly
Cape Town.

(Copy per email – additional copy to Committee Secretary for circulation to committee members.) 

Dear Advocate de Lange,

RHINO and ELEPHANT POACHING by CITIZENS of MOZAMBIQUE may be deemed “ACTS of TERRORISM” 

Given the atrocious rise in recent acts of poaching, clearly committed by persons from Mozambique, against South Africa’s precious rhino – and last week, an elephant cow from Tembe Elephant Park – it is now imperative that South Africa’s parliament acts quickly and decisively to stem this ‘bloody’ onslaught.

Since your portfolio committee acts as our custodial legislative oversight body, we are writing to you, directly – as an open letter, published via social media – in this grave matter.

Earth Afrika is an informal alliance of NGO’s, conservationists, ecologists, environmental lawyers and active citizens, both inside South Africa, and across our region.

Our legal and legislative research confirms that poaching activities and related wildlife crime may be deemed “Acts of Terrorism”, as interpreted within the context of both South Africa’s own Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act (Act 33 of 2004) and the African Union’s Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, as defined by the former Act.

Accordingly, we draw your esteemed attention – and that of your oversight committee – to this extremely critical matter of national security, by way of some brief background information and a suggested ‘action plan’.

LEGAL BACKGROUND

The AU’s Convention – signed and ratified by both SA and Mozambique a decade ago, and formally lodged with the United Nations after adoption – is a primary guiding, multinational instrument, recognized by our own legislation.

In short, this Convention states that:

A “Terrorist act” means:

(a) any act which is a violation of the criminal laws of a State Party and which may endanger the life, physical integrity or freedom of, or cause serious injury or death to, any person, any number or group of persons or causes or may cause damage to public or private property, natural resources, environmental or cultural heritage and is calculated or intended to:

(i) intimidate, put in fear, force, coerce or induce any government, body, institution, the general public or any segment thereof, to do or abstain from doing any act, or to adopt or abandon a particular standpoint, or to act according to certain principles; or 

(ii) disrupt any public service, the delivery of any essential service to the public or to create a public emergency … 

It further places critical obligations on “State Parties” in Article 2 – which binds Mozambique indisputably – to, inter alia:

(a) review their national laws and establish criminal offences for terrorist acts as defined in this Convention and make such acts punishable by appropriate penalties that take into account the grave nature of such offences …

To conclude this synopsis, Article 4 of the Convention requires of “State Parties” to, inter alia:

(a) prevent their territories from being used as a base for the planning, organization or execution of terrorist acts or for the participation or collaboration in these acts in any form whatsoever …

In terms of South Africa’s own legislation on this matter, namely the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act of 2004, a “Terrorist Activity” is defined as being, inter alia:

(a) any act committed in or outside the Republic, which – 

(i) involves the systematic, repeated or arbitrary use of violence by any means or method … 

(v) causes the destruction of or substantial damage to any property, natural resource, or the environmental or cultural heritage, whether public or private … 

(vii) causes any major economic loss or extensive destabilisation of an economic system or substantial devastation of the national economy … 

(viii) creates a serious public emergency situation …

LEGAL INTERPRETATION 

Our legislative review indicates that:

1. The deployment of specially trained military personnel of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in the Kruger National Park and other environs clearly constitutes a “serious public emergency situation”, especially given the massive resource deployment required to counter this scourge;

2. There is a global, regional and local outcry over the destruction of South Africa’s rich and unique “natural resources” and “environmental heritage” through poaching, thus indicating the gravity of the poaching onslaught;

3. Poaching has now become “systemic” and involves the use of violence, both against nature kind and human kind, as proven by the additional physical threat to life and personal injury for rangers, anti-poaching units and SANDF personnel, which, directly and indirectly, undermines South Africa’s constitutional obligations to the security of its citizens by way of a tacit condonment of such acts of violence and terror, and our nation’s limited responses thereto; and

4. The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, in conjunction with SA National Parks and other provincial parks, can more than adequately prove to your committee that a significant part of our poaching crime originates from Mozambique soil, and that this respective “State Party’s” government has neither enacted laws, nor taken strong law enforcement counter-measures, to recognize our national, African and global assets and these appalling threats to their future security, as well as our resultant national economic and “war” crisis.

OPINION

Accordingly, our organization strongly believes that an appropriately constituted court of law in South Africa would find that:

(a) The Republic of Mozambique is in material breach of their “State Party” obligations under the AU’s Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism; and

(b) The Republic of South Africa has neither applied its mind diligently, nor taken strong corrective action, to halt such “terrorist” incursions from Mozambique on our national soil, thereby creating a national security crisis, and must insist – with immediate effect – the SA Police and National Prosecuting Authority give effect to charging parties of such a “terrorist” crime, once apprehended.

Quick links: 

African Union Convention: 
http://treaties.un.org/doc/db/Terrorism/OAU-english.pdf

Related South African legislation:
http://www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id=67972

PLAN OF ACTION

In this light of this well considered and diverse legal opinion, we – as Earth Afrika – hereby call on the Portfolio Committee for Water and Environmental Affairs, to urgently:

1. Constitute, as soon as possible, a special committee sitting to consider this opinion rendered here and devise remedial actions therefrom;

2. Advise the Minister and the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs of this pending matter;

3. Seek state legal advice on this matter and investigate legislative amendments – if required – to strengthen laws related to “terrorism” involving natural and environmental assets of the state;

4. Advise and liaise with other parliamentary portfolio committees, which are adjunct to this matter, such as the following, in order to devise a cohesive, national strategy:

a. Justice and Constitutional Affairs;
b. Police;
c. Defence and Military Veterans;
d. International Relations and Cooperation; and
e. Home Affairs;

5. Seek an urgent bilateral meeting with your committee’s counterparts in Mozambique’s parliament to highlight this grave issue and devise collaborative strategies to remedy this situation, urgently; and

6. Direct South Africa’s law enforcement agencies to give substance to these “terrorist crimes” immediately and also make national statements to our citizens about the gravity and new focus of such crime prosecutions.

TO CONCLUDE –

Sir, whilst we are clear in our firmly held opinions in this matter, we are acutely aware of strong historical ties with our SADC and African neighbour. Hence, whilst firm, we tender this open letter with due respect, given the gravity of this prevailing situation.

Additionally, whilst we are acutely aware that poaching is not singularly linked to multinational, criminal, terrorist gangs emanating from Mozambique, there is a plethora of evidence that this nation plays host – wittingly or unwittingly – to the majority of this costly and ‘bloody’ threat to our national security and our rich natural treasures.

Thus, we call on you, and your committee, to consider – in serious terms – the substantive summary of opinion and proposed action plan contained herein.

Thank you for your attention thus far.

Sincerely,
Brian Sandberg
(Regional Coordinator – Earth Afrika) 

55 Sunnyside Lane,
3610 Pinetown. South Africa.
(Email – briang.sandberg <at> gmail. com)

Original letter – download link:
EarthAfrika.Letter.AdvDeLange.Parliament.26May2013

NB – it should be noted that poor grammar has resulted in some minor edits here – when compared to the original letter – but the core ethos and context has not changed whatsoever. (BS note – 26 May 2013 – 14h06)

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20
Apr
13

Mozambique: More mud in the murky “rhino-horn” underworld

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Southern.Africa.KNP.Google.Map
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My recent blog about potential illicit trade and messy politics in Mozambique didn’t open just my eyes, but a somewhat veritable ‘can-of-worms’.

With almost 800 unique page views in under 5 days – of which around 250 were in the first 24 hours – I’ve been quite taken by the 50-60 people who contacted me privately, with about a third of them sharing some stories or suspicions over related matters.

Most of these “informants” who mailed me, and with whom I spoke on the phone, chose to remain anonymous and used random email addresses and “private number” mobiles.  Each bit of feedback seemed interesting, or possible, on its own, but when one hears an almost identical story/theory from two or three totally unconnected people, then some substance starts to evolve.

This blog – quite a lengthy read here – is a brief record of many of these many detailed and deeply concerning allegations that I’ve been party to receiving. In fact, the situation is far more bleak than I initially imagined. From the perspective of where I sit, anyway.

In case you’ve not read “Mozambique: Internal politics and the illicit trade of rhino horn, ivory and Marange diamonds” – 10 April 2013 – here’s the link:
https://vivaafrika.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/mozambique-internal-politics-and-the-illicit-trade-of-rhino-horn-ivory-and-marange-diamonds/

My hope through this post is that more readers might be able to join a few more dots in a gloomy picture emerging and come forward with bits of possibly related knowledge or experience they have.

One of the spin-offs has been the privilege of a few (seemingly) trusted and well-informed “security” folk making comms with me, so we’re setting up a little “intel” research network to collate information and add it to their database, in the hopes of joining many more dots.

Before I write about some of these really murky issues I’ve learned about – which need oxygen for wider awareness of this ‘bloody’ poaching war – let me make a few points:

1. I’ve given each person mentioned a pseudonym, for obvious reasons;

2. I’ve left out pieces from stories that might identify the informant to a third party, which could either compromise him or her and/or complicate our obtaining any more information;

3. Plus – finally – I’ve tried to break down issues into some key areas that make for their own ‘mini-stories’.

SWAZILAND – Casinos, denims and rhino horn …

First up, a map of the area – 

Swaziland.Nhlangano.Manzini

My blog was posted on the evening of Wednesday 10 April. On the Friday morning, a generic email offered to tell me about how a Chinese-owned denim jeans business in Nhlangano had links to one or more South African game hunting operators, based in the area between Vryheid, Piet Retief and Ithala Game Reserve, in terms of possible rhino horn trade and transit to Mozambique via Swaziland.

I looked at my blog stats and saw 2 unique page views from Swaziland that morning. (In the past 12 months, I’d never had a Swazi ‘reader’ on any blog, so it was easy to track reads from that country.)

I replied that I’d like to call the person (Sally) to hear more. Finally got to speak to her that evening, via a third person’s mobile number. Swazi readership was now 6.

Sally worked at Nhlangano Casino for a few years until just after the 2010 FIFA World Cup. She had a younger brother who worked for a Chinese denim jean manufacturer as a dispatch packer and a boyfriend (at the time) who was a truck driver at the same plant and did regular trips to Maputo, via Naamacha border post, freighting various goods between the factory and warehouses in Maputo.

After one such trip, she, the boyfriend and brother were chatting and a story evolved of two potential regular game-ranch farmers from SA – who were regular guests at the casino, often with foreign ‘clients’ – seemingly doing business with an owner/manager of the Chinese denim business that appeared to involve “horns or tusks” from dead animals. Smelly, heavy cartons containing black plastic bags, packed in newspaper were delivered to a Chinese wholesaler’s warehouse in Maputo under rather strange situations twice.

Around the start of the World Cup, Sally was on duty at the casino and noticed the Chinese manufacturer having drinks with the two South African game-ranchers, who’d checked in earlier, in a corner of the bar lounge. Naturally, she was suspicious, so she kept an eye on them. They all went out to the car-park. Since it was getting dark, she couldn’t see quite clearly, but it looked like two, rather bulky and heavy, black-plastic bin bags were being transferred from the rancher’s 4×4 vehicle to the Chinese guy’s SUV.  A few minutes later, they shook hands and the Chinese guy left whilst the two ranchers went off to one of their rooms.

That night, the ranchers and a couple of their guests accompanying them tried to change rather large amounts of US$ into SA rands, but the casino didn’t have sufficient cash on hand to assist. They all gambled, but not to any meaningful extent.

Sally’s (by now) ex-boyfriend had another job, but through her brother, she was able to ascertain that a day or two later a truck driver at the plant had delivered a truckload of cartons to a Chinese-owned factory in Manzini and one carton (that “stank”) to another Chinese guy at another small warehouse.

On the Sunday evening after hearing Sally’s story 2 days earlier, I got an email from a certain “Jaco”, who asked if he could call me.  Turns out, he’d worked for quite a large hunting outfit bordering the west of Kruger National Park for a year or so in 2008/9. He started his call to me by saying that he felt some rhino horn was being smuggled out of South Africa and into Mozambqiue via Swaziland. My ears pricked up.

He told the story of how a couple of Thai guys had been hunting guests for a couple of days, during which time he knew of 4 rhino that had been hunted by the ranch owner and a neighbour of his illegally, because they were almost certainly Kruger rhino on their land. On a Friday evening, one of the other young rangers employed there told him that the owner, the neighbour and the 2 Thai guests had gone to play golf and gamble in Swaziland for the weekend. On the Saturday, the owner’s wife mentioned that the Thai guests were going to fly back to Johannesburg from Swaziland and had taken their ‘trophy horns’ with them, but yet they arrived back at the ranch on Sunday evening.

Jaco drove them to a nearby airport on the Monday morning, but there was no sign of any horns. He kept quiet. No one ever said anything about this again.

A couple of months later – on a Friday or Saturday night – at a local town watering hole, he then heard a story about how his boss was part of a hunt on another neighbour’s farm where apparently 2 more Kruger rhino were shot, illegally, a day or two earlier. The next day, he heard from his employer’s son that the rancher had flown that weekend, with a few mates – one of whom had a private plane – and the neighbouring rancher where the latest hunt had taken place was in this ‘tour party’ – to Swaziland for a “bit of golf and gambling”. He wondered to himself about the rhino horns, but never said anything to anyone, and learnt nothing more.

He’d forgotten about all this until he read my blog via Facebook and simply felt there were too many suspicions from his own experience for him to remain quiet.

CEMENT and CHINESE INVESTMENT in MOZAMBIQUE –

First up, another map of the relevant area.

Southern.Kruger.Moz.map.02

‘Mark’ is a South African and works in the field of engineering.  He has done a “few years” of consulting work in building new manufacturing plants in Mozambique. One of his latest projects has been some work for a new Chinese investing company building a new cement processing plant near Maputo.

He’d been sent an email by a friend in conservation asking whether or not his experiences in Mozambique tied into some of what I wrote about in my 10 April blog. We spoke “completely OTR – off-the-record”, as work permits and his consulting work would be threatened by any untoward disclosure.

He alerted me to recent major investments in cement processing in Mozambique.
Here’s a relevant new link, given that these new plants involve substantial Chinese employment, trade and project funding –
http://www.macauhub.com.mo/en/2011/05/30/cement-production-in-mozambique-to-triple-through-chinese-investment/

Through his email-friend, Mark is linked to a conservation project near Kruger National Park’s southern border, and – as such – is deeply concerned about Mozambique’s rhino-poachers.  Through his many meetings with senior executives of Chinese investment companies in Mozambique, he believed that there “was or is” a very strong “cabal” within their Maputo community, where they seemingly have very senior government officials – “possibly right up to ministerial and senior party leaders” in their “back pockets”.

He told me he has had “far too many” conversations where Chinese role-players there who have told him they can organize anything – from “manipulated environmental impact reports” to “forced removals of peoples” on possible new production/factory land (as he alleges happened in the 80 hectare area of the new Magude cement plant), to “bribed” import permits and even having been offered “US dollars” if he needs “cash” to “grease the hands of community leaders, police and governmental officials who obstruct things” – or words to such effect.

He told me that, on “several occasions” over lunches, dinners or drinks, during small chit-chat, the issue of possible “business opportunities” via “cheap-cheap” Chinese goods, “unwrought gold” and “uncut diamonds”, and even “rhino horn and ivory” has been expressed by his Chinese counterparties, informally, much to his personal dismay. And which he tells me he most politely dismissed, as if it was an absolute “non-starter” for him.

To conclude his call, he related a story of an engineering colleague who has been doing some consulting work for a Chinese company invested with a large South African corporate in building the latest “cement processing plant” in the North West province.

Sephaku – a Johannesburg Stock Exchange company that is controlled by Nigerian multi-billionaire, Aliko Dangote – is building a major cement processing plant near Lichtenburg, using a Chinese construction partner, Sinona.

Story link –
http://www.concretesociety.co.za/branches/inland-branch/232-report-back-sephaku.html

Mark is quite clear that Sephaku and its stakeholders have no part whatsoever in the “conspiracy theory” that he then related to me and this information is simply for background.

He told me that, late last year, he had dinner with his old colleague in Johannesburg. During their conversation, they discussed Chinese investment in Southern Africa, which led his colleague to tell him about a rather strange and somewhat suspicious experience he’d recently had in Lichtenburg.

Apparently Mark’s friend met with a colleague at a local hostelry for a beer after work. Sitting in the corner was a “senior engineer” of the Chinese cement-plant contracting firm he knew, plus a well-known Chinese trader in Lichtenburg. They were in deep conversation with a well-known hunting outfitter in the area, plus some unknown, seemingly-rancher type, local fellow. Apparently the hushed word in the town was that the hunting outfitter guy might have been involved in some of the “Thai prostitute” illicit rhino hunts in the region and had sometimes been seen with “Far Eastern nationals” in his company.

Mark’s buddy went over to greet his Chinese engineer counterpart, out of courtesy, and apparently everyone seemed most uneasy. They left soon afterwards, leaving a couple of unfinished drinks.

Mark told me that the point of his call to me was that everyone should always “be alert to” foreign contractors who show an “unusual interest in our wildlife”.

Point well made, though no specific findings of illicit behaviour can be made, thinks ‘moi’.

MOBILE PHONES … VIETNAMESE INVESTMENT in MOZAMBIQUE … 

Now, let’s introduce “Devan”, who made comms with me about 24 hours after my 10 April blog was published, and he read it via a rhino-page link on Facebook. (Another unknown emailer and “private number” mobile user!)

He, too, is a South African “engineer” who has worked quite extensively in Mozambique, and his special interest area is wireless/mobile telephony, an area quite close to my own heart, so I could understand bits of what he told me.

Let me translate – in the most simple terms possible – what he was seemingly trying to tell me … since this might be the “scariest” news of all here … in my humble opinion, looking forward …

A few years ago, Mozambique licensed a 3rd cell phone network operator, namely Vietnam’s state-owned, Defence department’s, “Viettel”.

The two main players at the time were Mtel (Mozambique’s state owned telephony company – TDM – has a reported 74% in the business, which is 100% state owned) and SA’s Vodacom (via Vodafone).

According to Devan, the challenge has been funding rural roll-outs – not defined in detail in the original licensing agreements – as well as optic fibre infrastructure for broadband. Veittel won its licence tender on this basis.

Accordingly, they went “live” in 2011 and then won a major African network operator award in late 2012 –

Here are some links:

A late 2010 announcement – from what I can gather –
http://www.apanews.net/photo/en/photo.php?id=165406

10 October 2011 – http://www.viettel.com.vn/60-64-2-1863-Viettel-officially-puts-mobile-stations-on-air-in-Mozambique.html

16 May 2012 – http://www.viettel.com.vn/menu-60-64-94-Mozambique.html

22 November 2012 – http://www.viettel.com.vn/menu-60-64-94-Mozambique.html

What has this got to do with “rhino-poaching” you will ask.  Quite simple, methinks …

a. According to Devan, they now have the best rural coverage in Mozambique, especially along the Kruger National Park border and environs;

b. Again, according to Devan, Viettel has Vietnamese company management strategically placed in key towns and villages and who are seen as the “great benefactors” (using his words) of these communities, so they have ‘high-standing’ therein and access to political and communal influence;  and

c. Finally – almost critically – he’s aware that Viettel apparently owns some very ‘smart’ tracing/listening and jamming software that means – if required – “could” (and he stresses that point) “over-ride” mobile telephone networks in the Kruger National Park from the Mozambique border, for anywhere between a kilometre and, perhaps, 10 kilometres, inside the park’s eastern boundaries, depending on terrain. Such actions, if implemented, could stymie (block?) wireless connections in these park border areas, PLUS, of course, any use of drones that use such networks for mapping and flight paths. All this “subterfuge” (my word) –  according to Devan – could be “smartly used at local base stations” with the “right flick of the switches”. (Alarming, at the least, sez I!)

Well – not being too stupid and yet not bright enough to speak on such matters technically, I thought this might be a fair reflection of a “worst-case-scenario” … hence my inclusion of this insight here.

FINALLY – some RANDOM COMMENTS and INPUTS – 

1. Fred – in Mpumalanga – believes his former employer, who is quite wealthy, but was very cash-strapped at the time, took illegally hunted and harvested rhino horns to Mozambique to sell and subsequently bought a share in a game farm there … but he’s speculating because “things don’t add up”;

2. George – a South African in Maputo – had a strange experience where a Chinese client’s key director in Maputo (in a ‘cement project’) had scheduled a very important meeting on a day, but yet, when George arrived for it, he discovered that “Chen” had been out of the office most of the previous day and had flown to Mauritius suddenly. George told me that over lunch once, “Chen” had asked him if he knew how he could “lay his hands on some rhino horn for his grandparents in China”, and was then wary of the man;

3. John – ‘criminal lawyer’ – in Maputo made comms and said there’s so much corruption in the criminal justice system that it’s surprising any cases come to court and that major corruption allegations, serious theft of state assets, etc, are routinely lost in the system, and that protecting rhino, elephants and wildlife is simply “treated as being as petty as illegal parking tickets” … another sad comment for my memory bank;

4. Mario – a Mozambique “project manager” for road construction – mailed me and we spoke very briefly. He spent about 6 months in and around Moamba in 2007/8, when a Chinese consortium apparently rebuilt a key bridge that was washed away in flooding a few years earlier. He told me that during that time he was staggered at the trade in obviously illegal DVD’s, music CD’s, cheap cigarettes and clothing – plus more – that mushroomed during his contract in the area.  Apparently, he went back last year, and had to travel to Magude. He said he’d heard stories of how “strange things” happen on the road between Magude and Massingir where men with “rifles” get dropped off and collected 2-3 days later. He suggested I get people in the area to speak more about this;

5. Jenny (a former South African in Mozambique) wrote to me about deeply-rooted corruption there. She further suggested I not be too overly optimistic about reaching schools kids because teachers and community leaders controlled what was taught and how the system operated. She gave an example of how a teenage girl, who was an AIDS orphan, was suspended from a state school because she couldn’t pay the teacher for a key exam test, whilst struggling with zero resources to feed herself and her siblings … heart-breaking stuff, in my eyes; and – finally –

6. A word of meaningful insight came via a mail from a South African that runs a major game conservation programme in Mozambique, adjacent Kruger Park. Mike wrote of  how they spend a fortune annually on supporting anti-poaching initiatives, but these are thwarted by:
– The fact that Mozambique’s laws require that they need a ‘law enforcement’ (police) officer present for suspected poacher activity arrests, which costs are for the account of the reserve, and include daily wages for ‘law enforcement’ personnel, food and any transport;
– Mozambique’s failed judicial and law enforcement system whereby they are completely challenged when there is little or no follow up over suspected poacher arrests/handovers, despite proper reporting to the authorities; and
– Fortunately – and on a very bright side – they enjoy an excellent report with SANparks over area security and liaison, thus helping provide a “buffer” defence area between rural Mozambique and KNP, as difficult and costly as it might be, much of which is funded by benefactors of the reserve.

TO CONCLUDE – 

Very clearly, and based on both the SA statistics for poaching from Mozambique nationals plus my own little “Inspector Clouseau” information, this region is a minefield of murky dealings and serious law enforcement challenges.

My initial gut feel is to put this record out there and see how the cards fall.

Meantime, I do believe a complete think-tank is required in SA to resolve how civil society can engage the government of Mozambique.

People have suggested to me that we South Africans must lobby our own government for pressure. However, my own personal experience – with respect to both human rights and environmental/animal rights, plus lawless crime in neighbouring Zimbabwe, over a decade or more – shows a futile outcome.

To my mind, given the Zimbabwean precedents of a complete lack of any government initiative, on many frontiers, engagement by Pretoria and Maputo will be merely superficial and non-interfering of mutual state affairs. Thus, serious, well-considered geo-political discussions amongst informed and understanding South Africans is a great starting place to strategize, methinks!

If anyone wants to connect with anyone else here, or post me their private thoughts, ideas and information, then please mail me –
briang.sandberg <at> gmail (dot) com …

Hope this has been stimulating food for thought for you, even if somewhat long-winded reading. It’s been a rocky road for me for a week, plus.

Before I sign off, I must relate a fascinating observation on Friday 12 April …

I was tracking user connects on my blog during the day – almost hourly, out of interest, given the seemingly huge public readership.

By mid-morning, I’d had – from memory – 9 Mozambique unique readers/viewers. None from Vietnam.

And an hour or so later, I then had 13 Mozambique connects – i.e. 4 new ones. I was interested, given I’d had about 4 Mozambique unique viewers over the previous 12 months of blogging!.

About an hour later, I had 16 Mozambique connects and TWO from Vietnam.  Maybe completely unrelated, but I found it strange to get such an update from Mozambique and possible connects to Vietnam. Wish I could interrogate the user stats to see locations. Out of about 40 unique page-views in 2 hours or so, it seems most strange that 9 were from Mozambique & Vietnam, both not conforming with general viewer trends.

C’est la vie … 

Thank you for reading thus far and please remember copyright issues do subsist here, and – of course – the security of some important folk who’ve chosen to speak to me OTR – ‘off-the-record’. Please handle all this info with due care … thank you!

Brian Sandberg 
Durban. South Africa

10
Apr
13

Mozambique: Internal politics and the illicit trade of rhino horn, ivory and Marange diamonds

Limpopo.Moz.Zim.SA.Parks.map.02

After spending almost 3 hours with an astute and seemingly well-informed national of Mozambique on Easter Monday – over a beer and burger in Durban – I’ve now gained a far greater insight into some of the complexities of illicit trade in wildlife, diamonds and arms in our region.

This blog offers some background as to why SA faces a poaching onslaught, mainly from Mozambique nationals targeting Kruger National Park, and – as such – this seemingly links back to the historical FRELIMO-RENAMO armed conflict there, plus rising tensions in the country again as their national elections loom next year.

Whilst I am deeply concerned about rhino-poaching and links to Mozambique nationals – plus, of course, illegal ivory trade (and poaching) regionally from elephants – I’m also acutely aware of how controlled trade in Marange diamonds fuels human rights abuses in my motherland.

It was this specific Zimbabwean ‘diamond’ issue that led to a trusted Zim rights activist connecting me with ‘X’ (as I shall call him) over the Easter weekend.

What I learned from ‘X’ can seemingly be validated by some simple online research and it gives some real context to 3 rights activist groups, namely human rights activists in Zimbabwe, animal rights activists in SA and beyond, and human rights activists in Mozambique.

For this blog, I’m going to centre on rhino-poaching challenges and inputs from ‘X’.  (My own thoughts and insight into Zim and Moz human rights issues are best dealt with outside social media.)

LET ME INTRODUCE Mr. ‘X’ …  

As a sociologist, historian and political scientist, ‘X’ is currently doing a doctoral thesis in SA, through a leading university in Europe,  related to regional conflict resolutions.

Thus, I need to establish his ‘bona fides’ and background here, before I write about any illicit trade and political threats from Mozambique, as I understand his story told me.

He was born in the mid-1980’s near Massingir, in Mozambique, the youngest of 4 children. (Massingir is adjacent Lake Massingir, at the southern end of Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park, and close to Kruger National Park. Therefore, this area has relevance.)

His father was a migrant worker in a coal mine near Breyten (Mpumalanga, in SA) and his mother was a teacher, in a primary school at a mission, near Massingir.

His eldest sibling was a brother, 9 years older than him, and the next 2 siblings were sisters, 4 and 7 years older.

His father, in the early days of mine work, came home annually over Christmas holidays, but – in later years – this became a visit every 2-3 years. He apparently met and married a South African lady and started another family in the Breyten area.

X’s mother – through her church links, seemingly – supported RENAMO in their struggle against the socialist-led FRELIMO, for the independence of Mozambique.

Meantime, ‘X’s’ father was now involved in trade unionism in SA and they supported FRELIMO.  In an infrequent visit home, in the mid-1980’s, where he clearly connected with local FRELIMO supporters, he was forced to publicly beat his wife for her political affiliations and ‘rape’ her.  Nine months later, ‘X’ was born and, most sadly, he never got to meet his father.

Two years later, after then President Samora Machel died in the tragic plane crash on South African soil, there was a seeming blitz by FRELIMO on anyone in Mozambique with RENAMO sympathies, given the SA government openly backed RENAMO.

“X’s” brother was ‘kidnapped’ into a child-soldier unit by FRELIMO. Neither he, nor his sisters, have ever heard from him again. (Or their father.)

His mother was brutally assaulted and gang-raped by FRELIMO loyalists. His young sisters were also raped.

The church, as some form of social support, relocated the family to a mission near Xai-Xai. His mother, sadly, passed away a few days before her elder daughter qualified as a nursing sister. Her younger daughter became a teacher, and both are still strong social justice activists in Mozambique – without party allegiances – and happily married there.

‘X’ – with the help of his church – finished school and was granted a scholarship to study at a leading African university. He completed his first post-graduate degree in the USA, and his second in the Netherlands, both on scholarships.

I asked if I could organize for him to tell his story to the media and he declined. He told me he was on a quest to “establish the truth” of an important era in Mozambique’s recent history, and – if he became published – it would impact on this and almost certainly undermine the lives of his sisters.

Having been down such a road before, with other activists, I fully understand and offer absolute due respect.

Here is his broad-based thinking via our discussion on illicit trade, regionally, that fuels military conflict…

FIRST – SOME BACKGROUND … 

The map above shows the following:

(a) Massingir, at the southern end of the Limpopo National Park, which eastern border follows the Limpopo River. For the record, this park was re-established a decade ago, as part of the proposed Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park as shown here, linking Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou and Mozambique’s Zinave and Banhine National Parks – http://www.peaceparks.co.za/story.php?pid=1005&mid=1048 ;

(b) The Chibabava District, between Chimoio and Beira, south of the Gorongoza National Park;

(c) The Zimbabwean Marange diamond fields, south-west of Mutare;

(d) Three key provinces in Mozambique, namely Manica, Sofala and Gaza; and

(e) The Kruger National Park in South Africa.

To add some regional background, specifically for South Africans:

South Africa has almost double the population of Mozambique and our GDP (Gross Domstic Product – roughly explained as the total value of any nation’s goods and services traded, domestically and internationally) is approximately THIRTY times greater than Mozambique’s GDP. So, in simple terms, the GDP per capita is 15 times larger in SA…or, put differently – Mozambique is 15 times ‘poorer’ than SA, in rather crude terms.

Almost 50% of Mozambique’s civil service wage bill is paid by foreign donor nations, and that is decreasing. It’s tax revenue base is far lower than South Africa’s, even on a pro-rata GDP basis, but slowly growing.

This means – according to ‘X’ – junior ranks in the police only earn between US$ 90 and US$ 120 (approx) per month. Farm workers earn between US$ 60 and US$ 75 p.m. and likewise ‘game rangers’. (One can readily see how vulnerable such low-paid employees would be to bribes.)

In the envisaged Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, between Gonarezhou, Zinave, Banhine and Limpopo National Parks there are a number of farmers – several being former South Africans – that are engaged in mixed farming, which includes game ranching, eco-tourism and hunting.

Gaza Province has an estimated population – like Manica – of about 1.5m people, and Sofala around the 2.0m mark. All 3 provinces have weak economies, mainly linked to agriculture and tourism, with very high levels of unemployment.

Politically, RENAMO – which attained over 40% of the seats in the first democratically-elected parliament – has been totally excluded from mainstream government. Having lost nearly 60% of their parliamentary base over the last 3 elections, they’ve become restive, fractious and belligerent.

Afonso Dhlakama, the party leader, has retreated to his party base in Chibabava, with an estimated 800+ armed supporters. Recently there was an attack on the police station, and ‘X’ said more attacks would follow. (A few days after he told me this, a South African Translux bus was attacked, seemingly by RENAMO, and 2 passengers were killed.)

Now – let’s ‘back-track’.

In Julian Rademeyer’s remarkable book about rhino poaching, “Killing for profit” (Randomstruik, 2012 – http://killingforprofit.com/), he details how the South African Defence Force in the 1980’s – as part of supporting RENAMO – was involved in trade in rhino horn (and elephant ivory), some legal and some illegal at that time.

As he alludes – and which ‘X’ and I both agree – this opened a door, a long time ago, for RENAMO to treaty for illicit arms dealing, so old contacts have simply become “reconnected”, as ‘X’ says.

‘X’ believes the multitude of stashed weapons, buried in mainly Gaza and Manica provinces, have allowed unemployed, ex-RENAMO supporters (i.e. potential renegades) to ‘tap into’ major crime syndicates, linked to Russia, the Middle East and the Far East.

In addition, ‘X’ believes much of RENAMO’s current funding comes through illicit Marange diamond trade with renegade, black market dealers from Israel and Russia, in or around Chimoio, often with Chinese links, too.

As an added ‘money’ sideline – and quoting him roughly here – “some of this income is from Zim elephant poaching in Gonarezhou, plus the same in Mozambique’s national parks, including Gorongoza, and of course ‘rhino poaching’, in SA and Mozambique”.

He also believes – according to information he gathered when travelling around the region doing research last Nov/Dec – that a number of South African game farmers are somehow linked into this illicit trade through their hunting operations, and given the relatively low criminal value attached to illicit wildlife trade in Mozambique – plus a weak judiciary and ‘bribe-able police’ – “take their chances”, as he said to me.

As ‘X’ spent more than a week in the Massingir area shortly before Christmas 2012 (being a former community member and now visitor), simply asking probing questions here and there, he believes the entire police force in the area has been “bought” by “middlemen” that are former RENAMO supporters, but are now networked into bigger crime syndicates. (He says RENAMO now have little or no real support in the district, and many FRELIMO supporters are ex-RENAMO “chameleons”.)

So now you’ve got the picture.

‘X’ SPEAKS ABOUT WILDLIFE POACHING, MARANGE DIAMONDS and more …

I asked him about the value of a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding between Maputo and Pretoria, in respect of rhino (wildlife) poaching. He replied that he believed the Mozambique government didn’t have real control over district leaders and police in either Gaza or Manica because the “wheeler-dealers” (whether RENAMO, ex-RENAMO or FRELIMO) held sway via bribes. Hence, he felt it had little or no value.

I asked him about customs control and law enforcement for ports and airports. He suggested that supervisors probably earned between US$150 and US$250 p.m. (at best) and that “a couple of thousand US$ would ensure anything could be shipped in or out” … he was talking anything between arms, drugs, ivory and/or rhino horn.

My next question raised was about fixing the fence between Kruger National Park and Mozambique. He laughed at me, saying something like “Do you think 50-100 kms of fencing will stop hundreds of ‘poachers’ who mostly grew up in the bush, with weapons and conflict as part of their DNA? They’ll cut through it every day – there’s enough ‘storm-troopers’ back home to do it. Look at the Zim-SA border at Beitbridge, or even the fences between Israel and Palestine.” (That answer has stuck in my mind!) 

All this then led me to ask him what he believed the solution for our rhino (and elephants) was. He replied that he didn’t have an answer because that wasn’t his area of interest. (He’s more concerned with Mozambique becoming more politically and socially inclusive, and changing their constitution and laws accordingly.)

However, he did say – thinking out loud, as it were – that he felt South Africa might assist our rhino-war, by offering Mozambique serious financial support to ‘de-militarize’ that country and offer developmental finance to these hugely under-developed provinces and their districts (and villages) on highly favourable terms, that included improved law enforcement (including border/customs control) and a better judicial system.

BUT – he thought that was “pie-in the sky”, and I agree – it’s a hugely tall order, given how little SA got involved in such matters in Zimbabwe, for instance.

As for Marange diamond illicit trade, he felt that – until Zimbabwe managed a proper, transparent and accountable trading operation that complied with global standards – RENAMO and crime syndicates would flourish in Mozambique. To him  –  this is more important than ‘rhino horn’ and ‘ivory’ because it’s more easily transportable and bankable, in a conflict situation.

Makes one think! 

TO CONCLUDE …

I felt hugely privileged to have this kind of conversation with someone who has a real insight into the many challenges facing Mozambique, especially in areas some socio-political unrest occurs and where a range of illicit trade blossoms.

He believes the medium-term picture looks bleak as illicit trade rises to fuel potential armed conflict in Mozambique, especially with the likelihood of RENAMO getting even less seats in their parliament next year. More lawlessness will occur, and more wildlife will be poached, particularly as a possible MDC-led government in Zimbabwe might close down some illicit Marange diamond trade.

He hasn’t paid much attention to northern Mozambique recently, but is aware that certain illicit elephant poaching in Tanzania is fueled by demand from syndicates operating north of the Zambezi. ‘X’ is quite certain that the next 2 years, at least, will see much greater elephant losses there, given Tanzania’s large populations in their southern parks.

All-in-all, it’s a deeply concerning scenario, and it looks like it can only escalate further, as more tensions arise in Mozambique, socio-politically, and as RENAMO seeks to destabilize communities and the government, with renegades and crime syndicates exploiting this situation for ‘black market money’.

Maybe, in time, ‘X’ will dig deeper into areas that interest me, and tell me more, but – for now – I must simply salute a young man who has made a fairly strong impression on me. And … I totally respect his request for anonymity.

Brian Sandberg
Durban. South Africa. 

11
Jan
13

John Hume’s voice needs to be heard – as a significant rhino owner, globally …

John.Hume.speaks.03

I’ve read John Hume’s published letter today and – frankly – I have some serious reservations.

However – because of my doubts – it doesn’t mean that I – or anyone else – cannot engage him on such a critical issue, since he owns the largest private population of rhino on this ancient earth, and therefore has a very significant opinion that should be given oxygen … in my humble opinion.

Here is his letter that I received earlier today and which I’ve now converted to downloadable PDF format –

Hume.Revised letter Final

Just as I have said to many folk that there are seemingly “50 shades of grey”, so do I believe possible rhino horn trade covers such a wide ambit.

I believe this entire dialogue path on any possible, legalized trade should be carefully – and most objectively – trodden.

As but one little, concerned voice, I will dissect my assessment of Mr. Hume’s position in the days ahead and respond more fully. Upfront – there are more questions than answers, though I do understand ’50 shades of grey’ …

Brian Sandberg 
Durban. South Africa.
11 January 2013. 

20
Dec
12

Time to support Dr. Ian Player’s call for legal ‘rhino-horn’ trade, but – with conditions …

Horn.Trade.Banner.02
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I know that I’m merely one small voice in a spectrum of regional and global voices of ‘rhinophiles’, who cry out daily to stop the carnage of poaching in South Africa, but I believe I can add some value to the complex – and often highly emotive landscape – of conservation, and, more specifically, growing and protecting this iconic species.

As a reference point, I have chosen to endorse the broad-based view of Dr. Ian Player, who is, and has been, undoubtedly the pre-eminent public face of the species protection – globally – for more than 50 years. As cliched as it might sound, I have learned more about conservation and this species from listening to, and reading, his wise counsel over many years than from any other conservator I’ve heard, read or engaged.

A number of readers here might not understand the rich legacy he has bequeathed this “ancient earth” – as he calls it – and Africa, and our treasured rhino species – so I will add some highly informative links in my footnotes at the end here. I believe they will add an objective perspective for those who rely simply on emotive polemics but have little background knowledge.

He’s called for a mature, objective dialogue on the matter, so I’m throwing my hat in that ring here.

INTRODUCTION : 

In January 2012 – and even before – I stated publicly that I would endorse certain trade in rhino-horn, BUT – subject to some very key conditions.

With parliamentary hearings on rhino poaching matters held around that time in SA and the subsequent appointment of a “Rhino Issue” task team by our Department of Environmental Affairs to canvas all stakeholders and public opinion on the matter, I remained generally silent, looking to those who knew more than me to proffer sustainable solutions.

Whilst I have always believed that a serious dialogue over potential legal trade in horns was an option – and that seems to be the broad consensus from this stakeholder project – I am hugely encouraged that our Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, felt the initial report was incomplete and tasked the “Rhino Issue Manager”, Mavuso Msimang, to continue the team’s work and provide more detail early in 2013.

I salute the Minister for this objective decision, as my somewhat limited knowledge of various inputs and recommendations also points to a paucity of detail and a clearly defined solution, if indeed ‘legalized trade’ is one of the core solutions.

My singular aim here is to provide some ‘flesh and muscle’ (call it ‘horn’ if you will – LOL!) to the skeleton of a ‘legal trade’ concept, since I know of no specifics that offer a more holistic solution, considering my semi-outsider knowledge of most parties’ submissions to this crucial national engagement.

MY BROAD-BASED PROPOSAL :

In the weeks ahead, I will write a detailed proposal, but – for now – my broad-based thinking – although lengthy, because of deeply complex issues – addresses some critical issues, for me, anyway, and they are laid out as follows:

1. Investment in African conservation:

It is an indisputable fact that Africa is home to much of the planet’s greatest natural resources, wilderness areas and wildlife.

It is equally indisputable that the continent’s historical underdevelopment of our people and nations is starting to reverse and this is fast placing inordinate pressures on our finite natural heritage. Whether one likes it or not, human development – which is an absolute necessity – impacts greatly on the environment and new, cohesive thinking is required to deal with such major challenges in ensuring sustainable development for humankind and nature-kind.

By 2050, it is estimated there will be two billion Africans on the continent – double today’s population – and, unless quality economic development can take place, several hundred million Africans under the age of 30 will be consigned to a life of poverty and hopelessness.

This alone is cause for grave concern as many of the areas of social deprivation, poor infrastructure development and poverty are adjacent, or in close proximity, to wilderness areas. There is a plethora of research to support proof that most poaching and illicit wildlife trading is sourced from such communities. I cannot prove via scientific data but I can fairly safely assume that, whilst Africa’s total population will double by 2050, these communities will more than double, simply by virtue of increased life expectancy and poor socio-economic rural development programmes and investment by governments.

As democratic development takes root, more and more governments will be under increasing pressure from their electorates to spend more and more of their limited resources on human development needs, and less and less on natural resource protection, leaving little hope for any further development of wilderness areas and wildlife species.

New sources of revenue and investment will need to be found, over and above developing eco-tourism further. We cannot escape the harsh reality that ‘smarter, justifiable and transparent’ trade in by-products of wildlife is an imperative of the future. Governments simply do not, and will not, have the financial resources to meet the needs of African conservation in the decades ahead. And neither will international donors. There has to be a multi-pronged approach.

In my simple business model – assuming CITES approves trade in rhino horn from natural mortality in 2016 and that the range states and consumer states meet all the requirements by 2018 – then, for a period of 31 years, I project, by 2050, the following can potentially be achieved:

a. The rhino population in African range states will approach 100 000;

b. About ONE BILLION US$ will be invested in conservation by African rhino owners, the majority of whom are national agencies of rhino range states and need new revenues to survive and hopefully grow;

c. Approximately US$ 180 million will be invested in NGO programmes in African rhino range states, with some of revenues applied to non-range states for key conservation programmes;

d. Approximately US$ 125 million will be invested in NGO programmes in China and Vietnam to develop greater conservation projects and reduce illicit wildlife trade and any commercial dependency on threatened and endangered species; and

e. Approximately US$ 25 million will be invested in NGO programmes in Asian rhino range states in order to arrest and positively turnaround the imminent extinction of more of the rhino sub-species.

(A graphic posted after this summary section shows more. My final detailed proposal will have accompanying financial model spreadsheets to support these projections.)

2. ‘Wildlife Trading Company’:

This must be a transparent, clearly defined, centralized ‘Wildlife Trading Company’ that is structured to maximize social responsibility investment (SRI) in conservation, wilderness and species development, skills development, law enforcement and consumer education, whilst securing well-managed distribution channels to avoid both ‘black-market’ dealers and opportunistic spectulators who might otherwise manipulate markets via proposed auction platforms.

The company must be co-owned by the majority of African rhino owners in partnership with a ‘Wildlife Development Trust’ that shall be led by a broad spectrum of stakeholders, to ensure high standards of corporate governance, ‘fair trade’ (if one might call it that) and the efficient and optimal application of SRI funds for pre-agreed programmes.

The ‘Wildlife Trading Company’ shall form subsidiary companies in China and Vietnam that shall be joint-ventures between the state and civil society stakeholders in each country. These subsidiaries will act as wholesale distributors, trading directly with registered traditional medicine practitioners, subject to stringent compliance standards and monitoring, all supported by legislation and active law enforcement in both regions.

I can find no organization anywhere worldwide that is structured in such a manner, for such a key purpose. So, I believe it could become an international pilot that eventually might set a benchmark for possible trade in other threatened or endangered species, under certain strict conditions. Through high standards of transparency and public reporting, valuable lessons should be learned and shared and which, hopefully, will impact positively on the protection and development of many other thousands of species that are subject to both illicit trade and/or current commercial trade where poor oversight and compliance exists.

Primary ownership of WTC must vest with rhino-horn owners. I would think 10-15% of them should be from rhino-range states outside South Africa, and the share allocation should be in some kind of ratio to both ownership of existing horn stock piles, as well as rhino owners that wish to trade future mortality stock. Some form of contractual supply agreement annually for at least the first few years (from stockpiles) would most likely best serve the allocation of shares – whether they be state, parastatal or private owners.

3. ‘Wildlife Development Trust’

The ‘Wildlife Trading Company’ (WTC) shall be incorporated in South Africa and 25% of its issued share capital shall be held by the ‘Wildlife Development Trust’ (WDT).

Its founding ‘rules’ and shareholder agreements will specify key processes, policies and parameters. Any changes to critically designated items will require a shareholder resolution supported by 75% plus one share of the shareholders. This will ensure any possible changes designed to meet purely commercial needs of the 75% rhino-owner shareholders could be blocked if the WDT deems the organization’s founding values and objectives are not being served optimally.

Stocks of rhino horns from duly authenticated natural mortality – all DNA recorded and processed according to traditional medicine practitioner needs – will be exported from WTC-SA to either WTC-China or WTC-Vietnam. A percentage of these export sales will accrue to the WDT for specific pre-agreed programmes. A margin on purchases from rhino horn owners will allow for reasonable operating costs and a small return on sales (suggest 3%) for shareholders.

A similar model will be used in the two JV companies of the WTC in China and Vietnam, with the WDT strategically partnering key stakeholders and NGO’s in those countries to optimize the application of those SRI funds effectively and transparently.

The WTC shall be a public company and will publish detailed annual reports widely and the WDT will also ensure its operations and fund applications (with monitoring thereof) are similarly subject to wide public scrutiny.

4. Why a separate public-benefit trust ? 

Over many years, I have engaged many community leaders in areas adjacent to private or state wilderness areas. I’ve also read dozens of reports by numerous researchers and sustainable development agencies. There is a common thread that runs through all my related experiences – land ownership disputes and ‘trickle-down’ benefits.

It is common knowledge – supported by extensive research – that most of Africa’s proclaimed wilderness areas involved the relocation of traditional communities onto new and underdeveloped lands outside these reserves’ boundaries. In the private sector – often called ‘wildlife ranching’ – this is equally true. This has created historical tensions and bitterness, and is mostly still unaddressed.

Additionally, many of the more contemporary developments of wilderness areas have been done on the back of ‘strategic community partnering’, but yet the biosphere developers seemingly – and I speak broadly here – pay ‘lip service’ to attributable revenue sharing and benefits. Some programmes work exceptionally well. Many fail dismally. Again, failed partnerships create conflict and so potential retribution results, thus fueling breeding grounds for wildlife crime.

Boards of both public and private sector “wildness enterprises” need to maximize revenues for their respective future sustainability. They create business models based on profits from related trade (in accommodation, viewing, filming, hunting, ‘live’ animal sales, hunting, concessions, and more), but yet they do not define – in most simple terms – what constitutes a valid cost against profit.

This means that social responsibility investment (SRI) and strategic partner revenue sharing is subject to other operational cost pressures of the respective enterprise. No wonder projected income distributions to affected communities and ‘strategic partners’ are subject to constant tensions. No wonder poaching across Africa is off the Richter scale.

Owning or managing a wilderness area – or rights thereto – plus all its natural life thereof – is not like owning a business that makes widgets, or someone owning a private home or vehicle.

It embraces a unique and custodial obligation on those under whose care the entire legacy of humanity devolves, since man created borders, but nature didn’t. To me, it’s like a guardian obligation in running an orphanage. The administrators – whether the state, or an NGO, or a private sector enterprise – have both a fiduciary responsibility and a conservator-value obligation to diligently manage any and all related outcomes.

The widget factory owner can define his or her terms of business, trade or engagement. As can a private property owner. Flora and fauna, and our “ancient earth”, with its waters and sky, cannot. They need a defined and social compact from all stakeholders in their assumed preservation.

Hence a much-needed independent trust, led by elders in rhino conservation, and supported by an advisory board of related conservators of our planet, who – together – will define the final outcomes.  They will ensure social responsible investment via pre-guaranteed ‘royalties and/or commissions’ on all wildlife by-product sales, pro-rated to rhino-owners’ related communities and programmes.

Any commercial use of the planet’s finite resources requires stringent oversight, independent eyes and knowledge, plus a fully accountable relationship with the world’s citizenry. More so in Africa, because of Afro-pessimism, widespread corruption and lack of proper corporate governance, with accountability and transparency.

5. Traditional medicine and respect for cultures: 

I am a human rights activist and I often see my greatest challenge is promoting an ethos of mutual respect and dignity amongst all humanity. The United Nations Charter defines this obligation of all of us that are linked to this global body through our member states.

I have long said that one cannot fight for environmental rights issues unless one places an equitable emphasis on human rights issues. This, for me, is about acknowledging our interconnectedness. Our souls intertwined with mother earth. Our Yin and Yang, as it were.

As part of this respect and dignity process, one needs to pay special attention to traditional medicine and its related practices. Such wellness programmes are hugely prevalent here on my beloved continent, as they are in nations like China and Vietnam, and elsewhere.

Western critics are often quick to denounce these therapies which have endured in these regions for many, many centuries, but they readily forget that their own ancestors also relied on natural healing. Nowadays, many critics of traditional medicines themselves promote natural remedies and organic foodstuffs – and even repudiate ‘synthetic’ modern medicine and food – but yet they fail to recognize the evolution of this combined knowledge over millennia. That – to me, anyway – smacks of some kind of selective partisanship.

In terms of medicinal value of rhino horn, I cannot opine, save to say that the lengthy desktop research I’ve done over months indicates centuries of some valid therapy – in either physiological or psychological terms, or both – plus some seemingly inconclusive research analysis amongst more modern practitioners and researchers as to any potential efficacy, without any properly managed, independent studies done in China, Vietnam and elsewhere.

Based simply on my own limited knowledge and research, coupled with my enormous respect for traditional medical practices worldwide, I must refrain from taking a position on whether or not ‘rhino horn’ is an effective therapy or not. It needs a global study,  under independent, universal clinical trial standards, agreed by both modern and ancient medicine practitioners.

Again, as a human rights activist, I subscribe fully to the dictum that the globally accepted ‘precautionary principle’ must be adopted.

In simple terms – one cannot change that which has long been held as common practice, or in certain circumstances, without objective and scientific proof.

In addition to independent, international clinical trials, I must also call for an independent and detailed market analysis, that not only looks into potential supply and demand scenarios, coupled with possible pricing mechanisms, but also trade in other threatened and endangered species.

To conclude this point on respecting traditional medicine: I am acutely aware that certain traditional medicine practices abuse our natural heritage. There are, again, many studies in this arena, and criticisms, as well as calls for bans of such therapies. Of course, as an environmental rights supporter, I endorse such actions. No natural life must be subjected to any abuse whatsoever by cultural and traditional healing practices.

However – there is clearly no link to any level of wildlife suffering should a ‘guardian’ of a rhino ‘donate’ (or ‘trade’)  part of their mortal remains for the practice of healing.

In fact – it might just stop this iconic species from being utterly decimated and, hopefully, lead to a new era of smartly-managed wildlife trade that stops poaching … if widely considered, as well as being widely debated and endorsed, with – of course – support from a strongly committed, national and international law enforcement.

We all need to be mature and objective in this emotive debate-space.

6. Allocating Social Responsibility Investment revenues 

In my opinion, the WDT needs to operate as a ‘programme hub’, managed and overseen by a secretariat.  This, led by a board of eminent persons, should operate as ‘lean and mean’ as possible, to maximize the application of revenues.

Additionally, as the secretariat would be charged with oversight and management of funds raised in China and Vietnam for programmes there, a smaller secretariat in each country would perform similar tasks in their regions.

I envisage FIVE programmes, although I am more than open to engage on specifics, and I see each programme having an equitable share of the divided revenues. Each programme would have it’s own ‘board’ or committee, comprising experienced and knowledgeable  persons in that particular subject. The allocation of funds should be done on a quarterly, bi-annual or annual basis, thereby ensuring the majority of their work can be done online, on a part-time basis. In effect, it would operate similar to a LOTTO distribution project where worthy causes and applicants apply for grant funding, related to each programme’s defined criteria.

Additionally, in SA and rhino range states, funds would broadly be allocated to respective programmes in those areas and communities near or adjacent to those biospheres from where rhino horn was sourced for trade.  This is a little difficult to be specific over when one might have many sources for stock, so some smart thinking needs to be applied, to ensure reasonable equitability, without allocating very small amounts where little can be accomplished.

The secretariat would levy each programme fund a management fee, to ensure the WDT’s operational cost needs are met.

Broadly, my suggested 5 programmes are:

a. Wilderness Development –

With more land being taken by urbanization, deforestation, agriculture and enterprise, it is imperative to keep growing wilderness areas and rehabilitating them.

b. Environmental Protection –

This must cover the wide ambit from physical protection issues, where support is needed, to training and strengthening law enforcement capacity, as well as growing environmental law practice and actions, coupled with legislative development and lobbying.

c. Research and Skills Development –

Individual and institutional cadetship, bursary, scholarship and research grant funding for environmental matters has become increasingly important. This programme would enhance this burgeoning need, especially for students and researchers sourced from communities near related wilderness areas.

d. Eco-enterprise Development –

Developing eco-tourism opportunities for communities surrounding wilderness areas requires investment funding support, as does innovation, product development and programme implementation for better, healthier and more sustainable communities. There are several good agencies to strategically partner with in this programme.

e. Communication and Public Awareness –

My particular concern is reaching our youth in schools and their communities, particularly surrounding wilderness areas. I’ve seen some excellent work by some NGO’s, but – generally – this facet needs more focus.

With respect to allocation of funds in range states outside SA, to general African programmes and specifics for those in China and Vietnam, wide input and extensive dialogue should generate viable spending on related programmes.

In simple terms, when looking at South Africa primarily – as the following graphic will show – each programme would spend around half a million US$ per annum. Smartly allocated and correctly spent, these monies could do an enormous amount of good .

Rhino.Horn.Trade.Key.Commercials.02

In terms of parameters I have used, here are the core essentials –

a. Legal trade commences late 2018 – early 2019;

b. At that point, I’ve taken the total African range state population of both white and black rhino at 20 000;

c. I’ve grown populations at 5% annually, noting that figures of 6.2% and better have been recorded;

d. I’ve assumed an average life span of 40 years – thus a 2.5% mortality rate annually – when some experts put the average life expectancy at 35-38 years;

e. I’ve assumed a ‘starting stockpile’ of 15 000 kgs, although figures of upwards of 20 000 have been mentioned by knowledgeable commentators;

f. I’ve grown annual sales volumes by 2.5% per annum, in line with the mortality rate;

g. I’ve no fixed opinion on pricing, which I would hope might come down a little over time, and rise a little in the short to medium term. So I simply took an end-consumer price of US$ 25 000 per kilogram, allowed a retail mark-up of approximately 75-80%, excluded VAT (China – 17% and Vietnam 10%) and arrived at a wholesale price of US$ 12 000 per kg;

h. I then allowed the purchase price from owners to be subject to a wholesale mark-up of 50%, so I could allocate 20% of wholesale turnover to SRI programmes, and leave sufficient margin for SA and China-Vietnam operating company expenses, with a small return for shareholders;

i. I kept purchase and wholesale prices constant over the period, simply to get a perspective on SRI income and potential returns for rhino horn owners. That way, if someone believes horn prices should be doubled or halved, for example, they can apply the same factor to SRI projected revenues; and

j. I split sales between China and Vietnam on a 75:25 basis, as well as splitting the 20% SRI allocation 50:50 between regional trading operations, save for the fact that I took 10% of each SRI spend in China and Vietnam and re-allocated it back to general African conservation programmes to align any NGO work there with reciprocal work in Africa.

AND FINALLY – 

Where to from here ?

Dr. Player has called for a serious conversation between all interested parties. I’m simply adding my little voice in that mix.

HOWEVER – I mentioned I have some conditions before I would formally support legalized rhino-horn trade. Here they are:

1. I do NOT support any trade in any horn harvested from a ‘live’ rhino. Dehorning has only come about because of poaching. Our primary focus is to eradicate this scourge, thereby making dehorning in the future no longer necessary. Additionally, it crosses the threshold for me of the fine line between ‘farming’ and preserving and developing ‘wildness’;

2. I do NOT support proposed auctions in SA – at OR Tambo airport – or anywhere else. Auctions allow too much ‘speculation’ for consumer pricing. Besides, product distribution can still be manipulated by current poaching syndicates and ‘black-market’ dealers, even if ‘masked’ via seemingly legitimate buyers. IF there is to be any LEGAL trade whatsoever, it must be strictly for the purpose of supplying traditional medicine practitioners and the entire supply chain must be controlled, to ensure monitoring of regulatory compliance. I’ve never heard of an auction by a ‘pharmaceutical’ company to sell antibiotics, for example. If one is to respect traditional medicine, we should apply similar values;

and

3. I do NOT support ANY legal trading entity or ‘rhino-horn owner’ consortium project that does NOT have a substantial SRI programme that is auditable, measurable and transparent, plus includes a beneficial input and oversight role by civil society and independent conservators. Particularly in this highly sensitized matter and – even more particularly – in respect of the growing mountain of challenges we face in ‘wildness’ protection and development in SA, and Africa at large.

So now – let further conversations arise … via another perspective here!

Brian Sandberg
Durban. South Africa.
20 December 2012.

FOOTNOTES: 

Some compelling links to critical matters that Dr. Player raises –

http://vimeo.com/6646884 – His address to the World Wilderness Conference in Alaska in 2005

http://ianplayer.com/ – His website

http://www.wildernessfoundation.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=26&Itemid=31 – The Wilderness Foundation he founded and inspired

http://www.wild.org/main/about/ian-player-perspectives/ – The WILD Foundation (USA) that he helped found and inspire

And lastly … for obvious reasons … a “caveat” …

Copyright.Protection.BS.02

02
Apr
12

Rhino Horn Trade : a litmus test for environmental governance

Here is an opinion piece that I submitted to Business Day some weeks ago, written from my own viewpoint as an environmental governance activist and from the perspective of that paper’s readership profile.

As it has not been published, I thought I would publish it here – as submitted – given the rising debate in South Africa over rhino horn trade. Hopefully, it will add some value to the conversations.

RHINO HORN TRADE : A litmus test for environmental governance

– 

There’s a growing voice to lift the global ban on rhino horn trade and an investment analyst, Michael Eustace, is a high-profile, South African promoter. His seemingly compelling argument was published in Business Day (Rhino poaching: what is the solution? January 20).

http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=162979

For me, as a concerned citizen – and conscious of our national species’ custodial obligations – five key issues arise.

1. PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

Firstly, I believe it’s critical to define the globally-accepted litmus test for any national, environmental decisions.

In a landmark 2007 Constitutional Court ruling (known as the Fuel Retailers case), Ngcobo J was clear that the National Environmental Management Act of 1998 “requires ‘a risk averse and cautious approach’ [that] entails taking into account the limitation on present knowledge about the consequences of an environmental decision”.  Internationally, this tenet is called the “precautionary principle”.

Our former Chief Justice explained it as being “applicable where, due to unavailable scientific knowledge, there is uncertainty as to the future impact of the proposed development”.  He stated that “authorities [need] to balance environmental needs and environmental concerns [as this] is the principle of sustainable development”.

Given such legal precedence, methinks Eustace (and others) should present a more comprehensive scenario that includes risk and threat analyses to counter their upside, commercial revenue projections.

2. TRADE BAN A ‘MISERABLE FAILURE’

Secondly, Eustace is highly critical of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Their 175 member states regulate global affairs and defined rhino trade from 1977. Of their trade embargo, he states that “while well intentioned, the ban has been a miserable failure”.

Southern white rhino research in 1999 by two internationally respected scientists, Emslie and Brooks, noted “it is currently the most abundant subspecies of all rhinoceros taxa and its recovery has been recognised as one of the world’s greatest international conservation successes”.

From 2000 to 2007, on average, 15 rhino were lost to poaching annually, 30 times less that the gut-wrenching, bloody stats of 2011. A CITES report records SA’s population in 2009 at about 18 000 rhino (roughly 200 times more than when the ban began) as a result of a decade’s annual growth average of 6,6% p.a.

Personally, I struggle to find a “miserable failure” in a 30-year triumph.

In analysing mitigating factors of current poaching properly, independent researchers should study, inter alia, ‘pseudo-hunting’ (from 2003, via ‘rogue’ hunters), poor law enforcement and weak permit management (locally and internationally), the rapid growth of Far Eastern regional trade, investment and foreign employment, high growth in improved transit routes and telecommunications, and local corruption allegations.

3. OTHER SPECIES’ EXAMPLES

The third issue is that SA holds almost 90% of Africa’s rhino population. Given abnormal premium pricing for horn, objective comparisons with other species facing similar threats must be undertaken, scientifically. For me, two similar examples are caviar (sturgeon) and ivory (elephants).

The Caspian Sea is home to about 90% of global sturgeon. Despite united and concerted efforts by regional law enforcement agencies of the 5-nation sea-neighbours to stop illegal poaching over the last 3 years – mainly driven by large criminal syndicates – this species’ future is now threatened. Russia’s called for a 10-year moratorium on all fishing and Iran recently gazetted a 5-year ban.

‘Raw’ ivory is altogether different, since global trade is banned. From 2003, increased poaching and illegal trade led to certain states, including SA, being allowed to sell ivory in 2008 to China and Japan, via auctions, to counter strong, pent-up demand.  However, 2009’s 16 tonne interceptions of large illegal shipments (i.e. those over 800kgs) was trumped by an all-time record of over 23 tonnes in 2011.

These two premium-priced species’ examples highlight genuine global management efforts to meet consumer demand being undermined by sophisticated criminal activity. Other examples exist. International conservator role-players now mistrust managed supplies for any demand of premium-priced, threatened wildlife.

4. TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE

Fourthly, legalizing rhino horn trade is promoted for its status to meet traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) demand.  However, this is somewhat fallacious, given China legislated a rhino horn ban in 1993. Vietnam and many other key south-east Asia countries later followed suit.

Rhino horn was officially removed from TCM’s pharmacopeia. Substantial international NGO and multilateral agency funding for China and other TCM markets has promoted more responsible and ecologically sustainable use of wildlife for over a decade.

No evidence exists that promoters of legal horn trade have formally approached China, or other states, for opinion as to their positions on amendments to laws permitting horn trade.  It would be quite laughable if, for example, SA decided to legalize marijuana (dagga) and built a business model around exporting it to meet pent-up medicinal demand in, say, the USA (where it’s currently outlawed) without bilateral discussions first. My analogy isn’t different from the principle of supplying TCM demand  where rhino horn has been illegal regionally for almost 20 years.

Furthermore, hundreds of wildlife species’ ingredients are banned in TCM. There’s no known precedent whatsoever for the re-introduction of a premium ingredient (such as horn) in TCM compounds after lengthy trade embargoes. Questions arise when assessing collateral damage for other banned species that might be publicly misconceived to be similarly now ‘unbanned’. Thus, related trade officials must apply the “precautionary principle” in their decision reviews, given an absence of knowledge for future, consequential damage.

5. INTERNATIONAL ECO-TOURISM

Fifthly, SA Tourism recorded approximately 1,5m non-African arrivals, Jan-Sept 2011. A fair assumption would be 2m annual visitors. At current levels, the average inter-continental visitor spends roughly ZAR 11 000 (about US$ 1500)  per visit.

With SA’s growing international media exposure for poor environmental governance over poaching, coupled with increasing criticism in social media over calls to legalize horn trade, plus government’s drive to grow eco-tourism, there’s clearly a risk that poor, sensitive decisions will impact on future overseas arrivals.

If arrivals drop by, say, 1%, then 20 000 annual overseas tourists are lost – i.e. R220m in revenue losses, at current pricings – each year. One therefore must evaluate expensive global marketing of a Big 5 experience, which would include viewing dehorned rhino, plus any associated costs for additionally marketing such explanations.

SADC RHINO MANAGEMENT GROUP 

Eustace wrote that the SADC Rhino Management Group asked the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to motivate a CITES trade ban lifting in 2013. Dr. Mike Knight, the group chairman, refuted such a claim in the Saturday Star on 3 December 2011 after Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association, was quoted making a similar claim.

Jones also claimed the DEA and TRAFFIC – the international monitoring group for wildlife trade – supported trade. Subsequently, both parties refuted his claims.

To conclude, I believe it’s vital for rhino security that objective dialogue continues, to find smarter, optimized solutions.   I’m not opposed to trade, if there is compelling, scientific justification. All I seek is a ‘risk averse, cautious approach’.

Ngcobo J’s wise counsel rings in my ears again when he recounted the Global Judges Symposium’s Johannesburg Principle where delegates affirmed they’d “spare no effort to free all…from the threat of living on a planet irredeemably spoilt by human activities”.

Brian Sandberg
Durban. South Africa.

02 April 2012.

03
Mar
12

2 claimed ‘rights’ = 1 ‘mega-wrong’ & it multiplies ‘suffering’ … for animals and humans !

W I T H O U T   P R E J U D I C E   –   A L L   R I G H T S   R E S E R V E D – 

Durban.
South Africa.
Published: 05 March 2012.

Dear Mr. Geldenhuys,

Today, I write an open letter to you, online, since you chose to publish blatant lies about me on social media this past week.

In short, you are an OUTRIGHT LIAR and your statement was GROSSLY DEFAMATORY !!

In this very lengthy and detailed reply, I will provide a compelling, factual, “burden of proof” to substantiate my position.

This is not a conventional situation in our country – given the burgeoning weight on seemingly ‘free speech’ rights claimed online, without reciprocal accountability – and there is clearly a need for an extra-ordinary response from me to your malicious and grossly defamatory public statement.

The fact that you have chosen to remove this hurtful, offensive and inflammatory statement from your wall on Facebook, after several days of public access, does not in any way absolve you of your onerous liability for any outright defamation and “crimen injuria” claims, which can result from your vulgar, baseless lies, and your patent duplicity.

Accordingly, I reserve ALL my rights in this matter.

PROTECTION OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS:

 

I will revert to this image later … and which I call “Claude 01” for future reference …
(This is an image and NOT a video clip link.  I’ll provide the correct URL later in this blog.
It’s an image of the “founder” of the International Animal Rescue Foundation – IARF – in Europe.) 

Mr. Geldenhuys, you cannot stand up in public – both locally and internationally – online and in real life – AND at the Union Buildings (in front of national media) – and claim to be a champion of environmental rights, by virtue of your status as a director of a newly founded NGO centred on Section 24 of our precious Constitution, but then utterly violate my own human rights – with severe collateral damage to others – by spitting on our collective, enshrined fundamental rights of equality, dignity and mutual respect for all humans and our fellow South African citizens, such as myself.

In short, your Section 24 Rights Coalition can NOT claim to “monitor” Section 24 of the Bill of Rights of our Constitution without your qualitative “monitoring” of ALL other inter-related RIGHTS – be they human and/or environmental – as contained in this vital constitutional document that stands at the epicentre of our nation’s existence, as well as global treaties.

In claiming to defend certain enshrined constitutional rights – that comprise both human and environmental – one cannot claim superiority of one right over another.

What you have done, via your defamatory statement online, is bulldoze MY human rights into the ground in order to promote your distorted claims to environmental rights’ protection, by claiming justification via our national Bill of Rights.

NONE of these rights are mutually exclusive and fighting for the protection of 2 of the 3 rights (human, environmental and the Bill itself) actually causes a violation of the excluded third right.

Glaringly, this is mega-wrong !

In the end, should you try to defend environmental rights whilst trampling on human rights, you actually infringe BOTH animal AND human rights, as well as the Bill of Rights you seek to provide protection through.

So, when you publish degrading and false information about me (and others) that are utter lies – by way of your own recent, public statement about me (and others) – you, as a statutory, public officer (i.e. as a director) of the so-called NGO, Section 24 Rights Coalition, create a legal “conduct” on your part that totally “invalidates” your claimed protective environmental actions 101%. Such action breaches your fiduciary obligations as a director of an NGO that may also raise funds from the public.

Hence, you fail your cause – utterly and completely – by prejudicing both animals and humans…exactly as my blog headline here states !

I can think of little more that is socially inviolate, or even bankrupt, in terms of vision or ideology, in the space of “social justice activism”, for a struggle to supposedly protect all natural and environmental rights, but yet which fails people themselves, who, too, form a vital (from the Latin word ‘vita’, meaning ‘life’) part of ALL living!

Until you understand this basic premise, you will clearly continue to engage in human rights abuses, such as your lies to, and defamation of, me, and others.

(See a South South African Constitution screenshot below.) 

Extract from SA’s Constitution … 

_

This nation’s tragic history of centuries of gross human rights violations  – that a great many believe are intertwined with grave crimes against humanity – demands of each of us, in this precious land, that we each speak and act in all our social and environmental interactions with the utmost mutual respect and dignity, as clearly spelled out in the founding provisions of constitution.

Your brutal character assassination of me was crafted in such a manner that, for any casual or interested reader, a prima facie argument was presented and its ‘first blush’ seemed quite compelling.

I’ve been deeply hurt by the ongoing malicious victimization that I’ve withstood over many weeks since standing up for the values I believe in – and hold most dear – and which online conflict has led to unwarranted personal attacks that seem driven by a reckless impunity of my own rights to restorative justice.

TODAY – HERE AND NOW – I AM FIGHTING BACK TO RE-CLAIM MY OWN PERSONAL  INTEGRITY, HUMAN DIGNITY AND CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS FROM ATTACKERS, SUCH AS YOU ! .

.

.
Here is your statement of 25 February 2012 that you posted on Rhino Alliance’s wall – that you and others users then copied and posted on other Facebook pages – in both text and original screenshot (image) format:

Geldenhuys.FB.statement.copy (NB – not preset to open in new window)

DELIBERATE LIE – NUMBER 1:

Your published statement’s opening line refers to moving from the “laughably ridiculous to criminal”.

The penultimate paragraph refers to  “the migration from “laughable” to “criminal”…”

DELIBERATE INNUENDO – NUMBER 1:

You state that ” he has spent much of his waking hours stalking us (the promoters of Rhino Ultimatum)” and then refer to 3 charges being laid with the South African Police Services (SAPS), thus indirectly implying that you are a party to the laying of such charges by your use of the word “us”.

ACTUAL FACTS – NUMBER 1:

A person from Gauteng laid certain complaints against me that are based on the potential 3 charges you to which you refer. This was at the Sandton police station on Monday, 20 February 2012.

A senior police officer handling this case has confirmed to me telephonically – on more than one occasion – that these ‘alleged charges’ (my words) were made solely in the complainant’s personal capacity and that NO other party is involved in the matter whatsoever.

For the record, as of today, the matter has NOT been referred to the National Prosecuting Authority, which body is the ultimate arbiter in the decision as to whether or not to formally prosecute me.

Additionally, I wish to record here that I informed this officer of my intention to defend such unfounded allegations vigorously, should prosecution proceed, and that I would take the matter “to the highest court in the land, if need be”.

Furthermore, I can confirm that I received a letter from a large, prestigious legal practice electronically on 31 January 2012 that I described in my letter of 14 February to the partnership’s national divisional manager and a director of the practice as  “threatening me with criminal and/or civil action for ‘crimen injuria’ and/or defamation”.

This same letter sent to me was also addressed to 2 other persons. I can NOT and do NOT speak here in respect of them.

In my letter of 14 February 2012 to the lawyers, I followed my words quoted above with the statement that I believed that “this matter…is without foundation and somewhat vexatious”.

Accordingly, I am informing you here and now, together with any and all interested and/or related parties to such allegations, that anyone, anywhere who makes a claim that I am a “criminal” or my actions are “criminal” as a result of the current investigation underway by the SAPS will be strongly countered with legal action.

AGAIN – I must remind you of a fundamental constitutional tenet – a person in South Africa is innocent until proven guilty and I deny any wrongdoing whatsoever.

CLARIFICATION – NUMBER 1:

You state that “First, an ex-‘chairman’ of an ‘umbrella’ Facebook group for other, like-minded Facebook groups…”

Whilst this statement does not mention me by name anywhere, it is common knowledge to whom you make reference – namely me!

Your deliberately crafted phrase “ex-chairman’…”  has led to several people asking of me 3 broad-based questions:

(a) Was I “booted” ?

(b) Was I “forced to resign” ? or

(c) Did I resign of my own volition ?

The answer is that I tendered my resignation to the executive on 14 February 2012 once it became clear to me that I might face some kind of legal threat for criminal and/or civil matters.

I felt very strongly, on an ethical basis – especially as the Chairman – that I could not allow a new and exciting organization to in any way be tarnished by any hint of possible reputational damage.

To end any spurious allegations that I am aware of and which have been made by certain parties, here are the actual FACTS:

(a) For many months, I have tried to promote a united voice for all rhino-security activists on social media and in the real world in South Africa (and beyond) and dozens of credible parties – from Facebook group leaders, to public figures as well as to senior officers in corporate and civil society groups and NGO’s – will confirm my actions, postings, online and telephonic conversations and meetings;

(b)  In early November 2011, I set up a closed Facebook group (which I made secret to ensure privacy of communication) under the banner of the United Rhino Network (URN) to achieve precisely this aim and invited a few people to engage;

(c) I posted on that group’s wall a statement in early December that I had made some significant progress in discussions with certain key role-players in SA’s civil society after delays caused by SA’s hosting of COP 17 in Durban and the focus of that global conference. I further stated that I would make a statement in that group in the next few days;

(d) Various people clicked “Like” to that comment, including one person (with whom I’d had a telephonic conversation about a fortnight previously) over my various plans for URN and related NGO work in environmental affairs;

(e) Within 48 hours of that posting, this person sent me (and others) a PM (private message on Facebook) inviting me and certain URN parties to a Skype teleconference to discuss securing an international animal rights group to help drive a campaign to fight for the protection of our rhinos;

(e) Certain key URN role-players chose to explore this option and I declined to support it, on the basis of my beliefs and my public profile position – which is well-articulated on my Facebook profile image and this blog – in respect of finding local solutions to local issues first, before securing international partners – https://vivaafrika.wordpress.com/about/

(f) In the second week of January, as the recent surge in rhino-poaching was gathering momentum, and the issue of an upcoming parliamentary committee meeting was being discussed quite extensively on Facebook, I again engaged a few major, local Facebook activists to try again to see if building a national coalition of voices could happen. My primary thinking was to build a strong, local lobby group that could actively engage government and all role-players in the crisis, in person, and not only via electronic pressure. Quite frankly, I paid scant attention to the Rhino Ultimatum, at that time, as I felt it did not meet my own criteria of mobilizing South Africans, first and foremost, before securing international support. The fact that a new “umbrella group” took root, and has since then blossomed, under this kind of shared vision between all the founding stakeholders is – to my mind – highly encouraging.

DELIBERATE LIE – NUMBER 2 :

Your statement that the “ex-‘chairman’…started complaining widely on Facebook” is an outright lie.

ACTUAL FACTS – NUMBER 2 :

After the Rhino Ultimatum was launched on 19 December 2011, I made a singular post on my Facebook wall, a day later, that I could not support the petition. A heated exchange followed that night and I fielded some very abusive comments, many of which have since been deleted. After a few more posts were made on 21 December, the subject effectively closed and I moved on.

*** FOR THE RECORD –

A party with whom I have not discussed this entire Rhino Ultimatum for many weeks, has just in-boxed me privately, via Facebook – an hour before I publish this blog – and stated the following:

” I recall a previous wall thread of yours from December pertaining to the Rhino Ultimatum petition (see link below) where Joseph Dimetri was getting aggressive and culturally insensitive. Upon returning to that thread I see he has deleted his posts, but I was fortunate to have had them copied from earlier. I’m not sure if you already have a record of his comments, but I will attach the screen-caps for your reference in case you did not manage to capture them before he deleted them.”

I will advise the person (after “live” publication here) that I am most grateful for such records and ask whether or not I might call on this person to stand up – to our law enforcement agencies and the courts – as a material witness in my claims of “intimidation” by on 20 December 2011, by Claude Joseph Marcel a.k.a. Joseph Dimteri – for what he considers “aggressive” commentary that is “culturally insensitive”.

Here is my wall post then and the URL –


URL link on Facebook –  http://www.facebook.com/brian.sandberg1/posts/214357918643134

In a closed exchange between myself and yourself, with several others, on 19 January 2012 – FOUR weeks later – I categorically told you that, until that specific day, I had not raised the issue of this petition in an open forum, on Facebook, since my original wall post weeks before.

Over a period of about 8 weeks, links to the petition site were posted on my wall and on my group’s wall that deals with opposition to trade in ivory and rhino horn. From what I recall, I did not delete one of them, nor did I pass any comments thereon.

Surely if I was “widely complaining” and lobbying that it be “denounced”, I would have actively deleted any posts about it under my control?

For the record, I commented on it online with a dozen or so people, mainly friends, in various closed forums, from time to time, mainly in passing, when the petition issue arose in conversations.

It cannot be ignored that, whilst I was Chairman of the “umbrella body”, I initiated a specific, closed conversation online with other committee members, since you – as a member of the executive committee – were permitting it to be raised and supported on our public Facebook page, in contravention of the group’s policy NOT to endorse ANY rhino-related petition whatsoever.

Therefore your utterly false statement of “complaining widely on Facebook” must be rigorously condemned by myself as it goes to the heart of your impairing my integrity and damaging my reputation.

DELIBERATE LIE – NUMBER 3 : 

You state that my “complaining widely” was at such a level that you decided to “create this group (i.e. Rhino Alliance) and invite them all…”.

Yet again, Mr. Geldenhuys, this is a vile and blatant lie on your part.

ACTUAL FACTS – NUMBER 3 : 

(a) The so-called “umbrella group” was formed in the SECOND WEEK of JANUARY 2012;

(b) RHINO ALLIANCE was created on 29 DECEMBER 2011 and had a few hundred members by the time this “umbrella group formation” was even discussed by its founding parties; and

(c) Not ONE SINGLE group of the vast majority of the coalition of founding groups that I have canvassed since you made this outrageous statement has any recollection whatsoever of being “INVITED” and each of them are prepared to state this under oath.

DELIBERATE LIE – NUMBER 4 :

Your statement of outright untruths then goes on to record that “then suddenly the ‘ex-chairman’ intimidated every member of the ‘umbrella body’ into denouncing the Rhino Ultimatum”.

ACTUAL FACTS – NUMBER 4 :

(a) Each of the committee members that were party to the closed, online conversation that I referred to earlier, and in which you participated actively, are prepared to make a statement, under oath, that your accusation of their being “intimidated” is patently untrue;

(b) I believe we had established a committee of ethical persons – each an independent-thinker – and each treating the other with respect and integrity. Not only am I incensed that you could make such a malicious, untruthful statement as this, but that you actually trample again on the human rights and dignity of these fighters for a just cause by speaking such ill of them that you imply they are incapable of making their own informed decisions. I find that thought grossly distasteful; and

(c) For the record, the closed discussion referred to earlier was not about “denouncing the Rhino Ultimatum” publicly as might be inferred from your statement. A large part of this conversation where you were present and active centred around distancing the “umbrella group” from rejecting or endorsing either this petition (or any other petition) and ensuring member groups that took certain positions, such as pro- or anti- commercial trade in rhino horn, did so within their own spheres of influence and activity and ensured the umbrella group reputation was not associated with, or even impaired in any way, by linkages to other projects, campaigns and parties.

– In clarifying what I believe is a poorly worded phrase on your part, I believe it is important to note that the general consensus was that the “umbrella body” and its active execs gave the Rhino Ultimatum a “wide berth” (my phrase) since:

(i) there was fairly strong consensus amongst the leader group that the IARF-profile and association had “tainted” (my words) the petition,

(ii) that the anonymity and semi-obscured profiles of those seen as being the primary promoters clearly raised questions amongst many and so it was found difficult to ascertain who among them appeared to carry the overall influence and accountability for all related actions, and

(iii) that changes made to the petition during its first 4 weeks of a two-month campaign had brought into question its overall legitimacy, given that public signatories were not being consulted over changes made AFTER they had signed it.

DELIBERATE LIE – NUMBER 5 :

The “promoters of the Rhino Ultimatum”, as I understand the statement wording, “ignored” the ex-chairman’s denunciation, “save for a written request to him to desist from doing so.

ACTUAL FACTS – NUMBER 5 :

I received a firm, lawyer’s letter threatening me with civil and criminal action if I did not “cease defamatory actions” immediately.

Here is a copy of the body of the letter:

The FACT of the matter is simple – I did NOT regard myself as taking any actions whatsoever that in any way amounted to “defamatory action” and my immediate response upon receipt was that I, in fact, felt highly intimidated by the fact that such serious allegations were being handled by one of SA’s most prestigious legal practices.

DELIBERATE LIE – NUMBER 6 :

You state that “Out of the blue, he wrote to a professional legal firm that we were hoping to engage professionally, intimidating that legal firm not to take on “certain clients” (being us). It is clear from his letter that he has spent much of his waking hours stalking us (the promoters of Rhino Ultimatum)”.

ACTUAL FACTS – NUMBER 6 :

(a) Upon receipt of my threatening legal letter on 31 January, it took time to secure quality opinion in respect of my rights and the allegations against me;

(b) Within a few days of the letter’s receipt, I had resolved to write to the firm privately – and not through my own attorneys – to present certain facts about their client which I believed they might not have known;

(c) Additionally – after securing legal advice from various practitioners, since personal injury claims (such as defamation) are a fairly specialized field, I then needed to review many previous weeks of my interactions with a number of Facebook friends and users, to make sure of my strong belief that I had done nothing to warrant claims of defamatory action whatsoever. I also needed time, in between heavy work commitments, to construct my reply to the practice head and obtain further legal advice on certain matters in this regard;

(d) Between the receipt of the letter and my reply, two weeks elapsed and my time spent on meetings, telephone conversations, correspondence and research probably amounted to between 15 and 20 hours, equating to an average of less than an hour and a half daily – and NOT “much of my waking hours”. Given the severity of the claims against me, the standing of the legal practice and the personal hurt and indignity that this letter had caused, a properly researched, formal letter does NOT amount to “stalking“.

That is a malicious and bloody-minded lie on your part that I regard as both inflammatory and highly defamatory.

Furthermore, I take huge umbrage at the banal and defaming allegation that I “intimidated” the lawyers by way of my letter.

I am but one person, responding to a deeply offensive and troubling allegation by a client of one of South Africa’s largest practices – that employs hundreds legal practitioners and other personnel – and yet I can pose some kind of threat to them, by way of “intimidation”?

Come now, Mr. Geldenhuys?

Essentially, I wrote to cover 4 key areas that I had resolved to brief a practice director on :

(i) Firstly, the original petition stated that if the government failed to respond to the Ultimatum’s demands after 60 days from the date of presentation to government, international boycotts in tourism and agricultural products would be considered – i.e. from after 22 April 2012. I explained that I had been one of the original lobbyists for a Buy South African campaign in the mid-1990’s. (See my letter from former Executive Deputy President FW de Klerk on the ‘about’ page here to authenticate this.) I stated I had lobbied to build the consumption of local goods and services over many years and that I would campaign strongly to oppose such action as I felt it was in conflict with my fundamental beliefs. It is important to note that I highlighted that calls for immediate boycotts had already commenced via the Rhino Ultimatum organizers, which materially altered the original terms of the petition and for which no signatories had been communicated with for their respective approvals;

(ii) Secondly, I pointed out to the director that many of the goods and services being promoted for boycott from late January might well have been those on offer by large corporate clients of theirs. As I believed he was, in all likelihood, completely unaware of this, I raised the point that their taking instructions from their client in this matter of mine could well place them in conflict with other existing clients of theirs. Additionally, I stated that I felt the business of many South African enterprises might be severely prejudiced by boycott action – let alone the precious need to protect employment – and that I felt a need to make a public statement about this and to contact senior executives at potentially affected organizations, so they could strategize as to how to counter such threats;

(iii) Thirdly, as the International Animal Rescue Foundation (IARF) had made various online statements about their ties with the Europa (or sometimes also called Eastern) Animal Liberation Front (EALF) and that the IARF were the primary international promoters of the petition, he needed to be aware that it is well-recorded that ALF’s often resort to actions that might be considered unlawful. I provided several web links and a YouTube link to a hooded extremist of the EALF confirming my claim of illegal tactics. Again, as I felt the practice needed to be aware of ties to an organization that many regarded as extremist or radical, I believe my letter enabled them to be better informed about their client and the relevant linkages; and

(iv) Finally, I pointed out that their client had made a statement online that they were about to start raising funds from the public through the auspices of the legal practice. For my part, I made it clear that I would call for detailed information about fund-raising should their firm be a “repository” party.

If the tone of my letter was firm, then that was important as I needed to be very clear that I would take strong action to defend my passionate belief in growing all trade and investment in South Africa.

Here are screenshots of some key sections of my letter that will verify the construct and tone of it:

What is of great import in this issue that you raise about the “legal firm” you were “hoping to engage professionally” is that I noticed all of the links I had sent to the director in my e-mail were still fully operative a couple of days after his reply to me.

The following evening when I was showing friend, certain key links had been disabled and certain editing had been done on web pages.

Gone were the Rhino Ultimatum Boycott pages on Facebook and related links. Here is a screenshot extract to show a few of the high profile brands that had been targeted, whilst other links had images showing airlines such as SAA, Kulula, Comair and Kenya Airways, certain restaurants and accommodation venues, as well as logos and page links for retailers of South African produce in the UK and USA:

ALSO deleted were posts about fund-raising, the “masked EALF activist” on YouTube and several posts on IARF’s website and their Facebook pages.


THE FACTS: 

(1) On 28 February 2012, I conducted a thorough search on Facebook and online generally and could find ZERO record anywhere of  your allegations regarding “false statements” by the Wilderness Education Association Accreditation Council (WEAAC);

(2) I knew that Worldwide Events to End Animal Cruelty (WEEAC) had become a participating organization in the “umbrella Facebook group”, so I checked that group’s public document records, in case an error had been made by this group, given the close similarity in acronyms for the two bodies. I found that their public, online records were indeed accurate and so I took a screenshot that day to confirm this fact.


Given that certain parties might accuse me of editing, or giving cause to edit, these records retrospectively to justify my position that this statement of yours is an outright lie, I took a screenshot of the documents page of the “umbrella” group on Saturday, 03 March 2012.


As my initial screenshot was taken on TUESDAY 28 February 2012, and if I had edited WEEAC’s data that day to counter your false claim, then the above Facebook electronic records would have shown an edit on Tuesday, as it does for the post above the Participating Groups document record.

Given that this Facebook record states this document was “last edited about a week ago”, I have included another extract from a screenshot taken on Tuesday, 28 February, 2012 that proves the last edit of the participating group records was made on FRIDAY 24 February 2012 – i.e. the day BEFORE you published your defamatory statement.

Again, Mr. Geldenhuys, I must re-iterate  my serious concerns about your potential dereliction of duty as a director of an NGO and which appointment requires certain statutory and fiduciary standards of corporate governance compliance – especially given that your Section 24 Rights Coalition organization is centred on the legal protection of environmental rights, as enshrined in our Constitution, coupled with the fact that this new legal entity of yours, as an NGO, will be raising funds from the public.

It is not in our national interest that a director of one of our NGO’s – and a very newly founded one at that – makes such a reckless (at best) statement about two well-established NGO’s in the USA that both do some sensational work in their respective fields, since such a statement by yourself (and published worldwide) indirectly impairs the integrity of countless NGO’s and their directors in South Africa that act in accordance with our world-class legislation and standards of corporate governance.

Given the fact that rhino-poachers and illegal traders act with utter impunity when it comes to our national laws, our NGO directors need to work harder to show respect for our legislation, particularly in spheres where they focus on the protection of rights!

(3) It is, furthermore, a fact that Ms. Groth has been harried (since long before the Rhino Ultimatum was ever conceived) by the founder of the International Animal Rights Foundation (IARF), one “Joseph Dimetri” and there is a website that details many of the issues of conflict between each of them, and others:

SPECIAL NOTE : This link below includes 3 video clips made by the “masked, camouflaged” person in my earlier image here – “Claude 1” – addressing Ms. Groth directly:

http://mypersonalpagexx.weebly.com/iarffraudx12x.html

(4) It is a FACT that Mr. Marc Stiglingh spoke to a certain “Claude Joseph Marcel” (the “founder” of IARF) in Europe, via a Skype conference call, together with 3 other South Africans, in early December 2011. After listening to the first clip in this trio, Mr. Stiglingh confirmed to me, in writing, and subsequently by telephone, that the voice of “Claude 1” was identical to the voice he clearly remembered from that Skype call. (Mr. Stiglingh has also stated to me that, given my current legal threats, he is prepared to lodge a statement with the police in this regard and to provide testimony in court, under oath, if need be.)

(5) It is a FACT that I have, in my secure, electronic possession, an e-mail from Facebook that confirms the user profile names “Claude Joseph Marcel” and “Joseph Dimetri” as being one (single), registered Facebook user. (This record of mine irrefutably proves Ms. Groth’s assertion on this web link in an exchange between WEEAC United States and Claude Joseph Marcel that the latter is the same person as Joseph Dimetri, despite his claims that Dimetri is “in SA you dumb ass”.)

(6) Additionally, it is yet another FACT that I have electronic proof of also having been harried by messages and posts sent to me under both profile names mentioned in (5) above.

(7) This web link above also provides evidence of the FACT that Ms. Groth questioned the integrity of petition signatories in one of “Claude’s” international petitions regarding wolves in December where there are clearly two fake signatories added to the list of supporters – Mr. Dancer Ranedeer of Antarctica and Mr. Prancer Ranedeer also of Antarctica both of which were not subsequently deleted by “Claude” after she had drawn attention to this. (Personally, I find it incredibly interesting to see on this web link that “Claude” – i.e. Joseph Dimetri, the IARF founder – encourages Mr. Westerman, online, to “lie” on an electronic petition by using a false address, especially given that the International Animal Rescue Foundation was the high-profile, international group promoting the so-called Rhino Ultimatum petition, as stated online and in numerous SA and international media reports.)

Before I conclude, I must raise the issue of your duplicity.

In the week leading up to the 19/20 January “fall-out” between yourself and other exec members of the “umbrella group”, you gave an enormous injection of valued input for the coalition.

Conflict between ourselves arose because of your defence of promoting the Ultimatum – or at least the 9 “demands” contained in it. None of us wanted to “attack it” in any way but you kept harping on how you felt we should secure those “14 000” or more signatories as supporters. None of us were very keen, either, in starting a new petition, because of our founding principle point of consensus that we would neither endorse nor reject ANY petition whatsoever.

When you asked me, in a closed management forum, why I did not support the Ultimatum, I presented you a lengthy answer. I believe your post below – which was a reply to that post/statement of mine – showed some consensus between you and I:


When we took that conversation out of the forum of 15 or so members, to only the execs later that day, you made the following point:


In respect of IARF’s involvement with the petition, you made the following comment, from Rhino Alliance’s perspective:


When you were asked by someone else to propose a solution to your plans for a petition, or the Rhino Ultimatum petition, you posted:


When you were asked about being a party to SOARS (the early SA coalition of petition organizers), you stated:


However – and here is why is raise this very serious issue of your duplicity –

Given the SOARS post you made on 19 January 2012, I find it quite bizarre that you could say that, when I felt we were all engaging each other frankly with the intention of resolving certain tensions between us and yourself over wishing to promote the “9 demands” BUT YET you have drafted and mailed out a Rhino Ultimatum press release on 30 December 2011 – i.e. 3 weeks before.

Here is the footer extract from that mail:

For me, I am enormously enriched by the wonderful people that have helped build and develop that “umbrella group” because in all our affairs – and it has been several months for many of us – we’ve always spoken honestly and respectfully to each other.

HOWEVER –
I have yet to find any shred of evidence from any of the group’s management, executive or ordinary members that have shown the duplicity that you chose to show – to not only me, but to all these former ‘colleagues’ of mine, and others – in these few screenshot extracts above.

Mr. Geldenhuys, I am deeply saddened that your recent actions have only served to drive deeper wedges between rhinophiles and animal rights activists, both here in SA and beyond our shores.

In our group message exchanges of 19 & 20 January, the records will show most clearly that my efforts were primarily focused on uniting factions and bridge-building. I cannot begin to understand why you have chosen such a destructive path recently.

On Monday, 12 March, I will decide what further steps to take to restore my abused rights.

In the meantime, I need to resolve the matter of your malicious attack on me in respect of some obscure linkage to WEAAC, WEEAC and Ms. Dawn Groth. As I feel very obligated, by virtue of unknown or indirect association with these parties – noting that I only recently connected on Facebook with Ms. Groth personally – I will formally be writing to them to apologise, on behalf of our myself and our wider communities, for the fact that a fellow South African launched such a vicious attack on their organizations. In so doing, I will offer to assist in the event that any of them need legal and/or law enforcement assistance in South Africa.

To conclude, Mr. Geldenhuys, and with immediate effect, please be advised that I will not hesitate to take urgent criminal or civil action against you personally for any untoward actions whatsoever on your part, whether directly or indirectly, that cause, or give cause, to any form of personal injury of myself.

Brian Sandberg 

Durban. 
South Africa.

APPEAL TO READERS :

Clearly anyone reading my statement above should be left in no doubt whatsoever that Mr. Geldenhuys, for whatever reason, committed a very serious offence of, inter alia, defaming of me very publicly, with, what I can reasonably assume, was a clear intent on his part to impair my dignity and reputation, given the fact that he must reasonably have known that certain of his statements in the offending publication were untrue and certain were obviously structured to be injurious.

It is public knowledge that Mr. Geldenhuys presented the so-called Rhino Ultimatum to President Zuma’s representative at Union Buildings in Pretoria on 22 February 2012.

My understanding, by reading certain media reports and online statements is that this new NGO – of which he is a director – Section 24 Rights Coalition – is a leading party to the organization and promotion of this petition campaign.

It is therefore not unreasonable, given his blatant untruths about me in his statement that I have attacked above, to assume that the threat I received from the attorneys on 31 January, the complaints laid against me for criminal investigations by our law enforcement agencies on 20 February and this malicious, defamatory publication of 25 February – all coupled with the harassment and intimidation over the past 2 months that I have suffered by “the masked ALF extremist” (“Claude 1” a.k.a. Joseph Dimetri a.k.a. Claude Joseph Marcel) are all patently linked to the Rhino Ultimatum and my public criticism of it on 20 December 2011.

In building my legal defence to possible criminal charges against me, the onus is on me to prove that comments I have made in public are, in fairly simple terms, objective and fair such that a court of law would consider whether or not a “reasonable person” would take “reasonable offence” at them, given the context of the words used and a range of other related factors.

Let the public record show that in a lengthy “closed” online message exchange with about half a dozen others, I referred to the complainant as a “loose cannon”. Mr. Geldenhuys was party to that exchange and neither he, nor any of the other parties, chose to object to my use of that phrase.

I cannot assume that either he, or anyone else present, “agreed” with me, but the fact that not one objection, of any form, was raised gives me comfort that this comment was not unreasonably offensive.

In my research of many hundreds of exchanges with a diverse spectrum of people and issues online in trying to build my defence, I have yet to find any other comments I have made that might give rise to “defamatory action”.

So – my first appeal for information here is that I would ask any reader who feels I have made a “defamatory” statement about them, or any other party, to please provide me with evidence, especially if it is related to any comments I have made about the Rhino Ultimatum.

RHINO ULTIMATUM CAMPAIGN – RUC :

Now – the next issue for appeal centres around the actual Ultimatum and its supporting promotional campaign. This also relates to its founders, organizers and managing promoters, as a collective, past and current.

For ease of reference and unless otherwise stated, I will refer to all the elements involved in this matter – i.e. people, organizations, promotions, publications and petition – under one generic term – Rhino Ultimatum Campaign and I will abbreviate this to RUC.

CLAIMS AND ALLEGATIONS :

For the record, I have defended myself from the false accusation of my “denouncing the Rhino Ultimatum” in the second half of January as claimed by Mr. Geldenhuys.

HOWEVER – clearly my letter to the lawyers of 14 February is a firm act on my part to be highly critical of this petition and the promoters of it.

I believe this is quite justifiable given the facts I will present shortly.

In terms of local and international statutes, I am entitled to hold strong opinions and to articulate them, in public, CONDITIONAL UPON my being FAIR and causing NO PERSONAL HARM to anyone. (I say this in the broadest sense and for brevity here.)

When the senior case officer from the police first called me, she said that a serious part of the investigation would centre on the fact that my actions and statements gave rise in this case to the fact that the complainant felt his/her “life was under threat”. Needless to say, this allegation caused great stress to me.

In one of my discussions with my lawyer and various legal and law enforcement parties when I raised this very stressful point, I stated that it has never, ever been my intention, in this public critique of mine, or in any other causes, to say things whereby anyone felt so threatened, let alone myself being the cause of great personal anxiety and distress to them personally.

It was pointed out to me that I had clear proof that I had stated to the complainant and other key petition promoters, on or before 20 December 2011, that not only did I find the original wording and thrust of the petition offensive to me (and, I believed, many of our population) but that I felt the supposed partnership and international leadership of the IARF was “ill-considered”.

On more than one occasion I stated that I believed the whole project was poorly constructed, or words to that effect. None of these statements can in any way be considered offensive in terms of “crimen injuria” and/or defamation. They are fair and reasonable criticisms on my part, given that I explained my reasoning behind them.

Thus, as was further pointed out to me, given my clearly stated opposition to the petition at its launch, the promoters should have reasonably expected me to be vocal and critical of it on social media, given my long history in that space.

However, I remained publicly silent on this matter in open forums until 19 January 2012 – in other words for four whole weeks, which was the critical period for the aggregation of the majority of the signatories to it. (From 19 December to 19 January, it gathered approximately 14000 signatories and between 19 January and its submission to government on 22 February it gathered about another 8000 supporters.)

“MINISCULE CONSEQUENCE”

In my discussions preparing my defence to the complaint, I was asked if I had NOT CRITICIZED the petition or the ‘non-African NGO’ promoters and had actually supported the entire endeavour, plus very actively campaigned for it, “what difference could I have made to their collection of signatures, given that the target was 250,000” (roughly verbatim)?

I laughed out loud and explained that I could think of 3 petitions off-hand that I had very actively championed via social media over the past year or so. One was a major international petition about corrective rape in South Africa. I think my very, very active promotion of it – because I passionately believed in fighting the scourge – probably helped add a maximum of a couple of hundred signatories out of the eventual 200,000 plus received. The other two were very local issues over our recent Info-Secrecy Bill and Corruption in SA. In both these cases, I probably helped add a few dozen supporters to them.

I also pointed out that I was aware that most of the people I would have actively canvased to support the petition, if I endorsed it actively, had actually signed it and/or were actively promoting it themselves.

On this basis, the consensus was that I had an excellent point of defence that, based on past history of my online activism, whether or not I endorsed the petition, stayed silent or even spoke out strongly against it, my own resulting spheres of influence on the success or failure of the Ultimatum was of almost “miniscule consequence“, given that many of the people I know actually signed the petition, in spite of my opposition to its construct.

DEFAMATION – INTEGRITY, REPUTATION, WORK and GOALS :

As was pointed out to me, a critical part of my defence – in relation to my initial criticism of the petition project – would hinge on the fact that the lawyer’s letter of 31 January stated that the defamation would target, aside from damage to their client’s integrity and reputation, their client’s undertaking to perform certain work and the goals which their client sought to achieve. (My paraphrasing here – the actual wording is shown elsewhere above.)

So in defending the spurious allegations against me, one needs to break these down into bite-size issues:

(a) Client’s “integrity” – I have no reason whatsoever to doubt that that their client is a good person and is a solid member of the community with strong passions to right certain social injustices.

For the record, their client told me in an e-mail at the end of December that I accused her of being dishonest over a certain “non-disclosure” in a previous closed exchanges with 3 other parties in early December. This is not true.

Here is my exact post on that matter which can be fully authenticated via electronic records of all concerned:

” I was completely unaware of this. 
I think being invited to join a “confidential” conversation should have included full disclosure of such issues up front. 
It really concerns me that some lack of upfront transparency and an offer of engagement “after-the-event” is not constructive in efforts aimed at uniting local rhino activists…
Thank you for now updating me.”

(b) Client’s “reputation” – this always poses a range issues to be considered. My understanding from the legal-eagles is that all lawyers, prosecutors and courts generally look at two very important areas – general reputation and reputation that is specific to the matters at hand.

Given that the complainant had mentioned to me, either in writing or in conversation with me in November 2011, a lack of experience and knowledge in rhino-related matters, in media and in campaign management and lobbying, and given my own experience, particular in media and campaigns, over many years, I honestly felt my opinions, even if critical of the RUC, should certainly not be taken as my being defamatory in any way whatsoever. Any comments I made were never intended to be hurtful and, indeed, I believe were reasonable – i.e. able to be well reasoned.

(c) Client’s “work” – here I must agree with those who’ve advised me. An individual has the freedom of choice as to work to be undertaken, unless there is duress. In the absence of such coercion, it would not be unreasonable, given the high-profile of the rhino-crisis in South Africa and the exceptionally emotive voices engaged in various spaces surrounding it, to assume driving any form of campaign in this environment will evoke a diverse spectrum of criticism…as I have found out by personal attacks I’ve experienced by Joseph Dimetri, for example. As my lawyer says – and not verbatim – “it is a free world and if you can’t stand the heat in the kitchen then you should leave”.  The advice I received has given me comfort that if I give fairly objective and reasoned criticisms of a campaign’s strategy, a campaign manager would be hard pressed to prove that such actions are defamatory; and

(d) Client’s “goals” –  this target of defamatory action is an interesting one. The legal consensus that I have revolves around not only the goal, but the route to the goal. A simple example was given to me to understand the issues that needed to be considered in this specific target area claim for possible defamatory action.

It is a well-established business practice and in fact, is mostly highly desirable, for one enterprise to have a goal to gain market share from a competitor. However, if the achievement of that goal relies on the marketer seemingly ‘defaming’ the opposition in order to achieve their objective, then the courts will be obliged to rule on the strategy to achieve the goal and not focus on the goal itself.

Again my legal advice was very clear. Mr. Joseph Dimetri, the founder of the IARF, has certain goals related to certain projects that he is involved in. However, there is more than sufficient evidence, both within RUC and other campaigns (such as in the Ms. Dawn Groth video clips) that he relies on certain actions, some of which might be considered as being unlawful (e.g. intimidation, harassment, defamation, “crimen injuria”, etc.), to achieve his goals and those of the IARF. (I myself am a victim of his continued harassment against which I am protected by law, but given his anonymous activity, and unknown location in another country, it is an onerous matter for me to pursue, although my claims are watertight.)

Therefore his actions alone, given his very high profile role in the whole RUC matter, provide the complainant (and other parties to RUC outside of IARF) with a number of difficult hurdles to cross, especially in any case of bringing an action over defamation in relation to the target claim of achievement of goals.

VALIDITY OF THE PETITION :

Sometime during January 2012, I developed a strong, personal and private view that the entire petition was severely compromised once I realized certain material changes to it had been effected.

It was only at the time of my online, closed exchange with Messrs. Geldenhuys and Stiglingh (and others) on 19 January, that I paid any real attention to its detailed wording again after my original wall post on 20 December.

1. REFERENCE TO I.A.R.F.

In that discussion, I learned that Mr. Stiglingh had been responsible for drafting the primary elements of it but that there had been a number of changes to it which he felt not only invalidated it, but also amounted to fraud and I then read a post he’d made public that stated such.

During that online exchange, discussions centred around the role of IARF and Claude/Dimetri. It was generally accepted that the IARF was not only the “public-face” (my words) of the petition, but Mr. Geldenhuys pointed out that “they did add about 6000 of their own followers to it…” of the roughly 14000 signatories at that time.

Furthermore, since the discussion included several parties who ran Facebook groups centred on rhino-matters and whose groups generally included supporters numbering between 1000 and 5000, there was an implied consensus that Claude/Dimetri played a dominant and influential role in RUC.

I recorded there, after re-looking at the actual wording of the petition for the first time in 4 weeks, that it’s introduction stated:

 “THE RHINO ULTIMATUM is addressed to the South African government, and is given and directed by the Global Signatories hereto, and the International Animal Rescue Foundation.” 

In trying to establish whether or not the petition was being driven by an organization or group out of South Africa or out of Europe – i.e. IARF’s “deemed” primary “domicile” – I drew specific attention to the fact that the petition clearly stated “given and directed by” and then, aside from the individual signatories, one single organization, namely Claude/Dimetri’s IARF.

Only very recently was I given the original wording of the introduction to the petition which stated:

“We the undersigned International Animal Rescue Foundation & South African Operation Action Rhino Survival the founders of The Rhino Petition Ultimatum are asking for your immediate help in our cause to help call a complete and immediate halt to the barbaric, and senseless killings of the Rhino in South Africa one of the big 5.”

I discovered that the SOARS partnership had broken up soon after New Year and hence the editing in early- to mid-January, as I understood matters. 

When I received the lawyer’s letter on 31 January, I looked at the petition again.

Yet again, the introductory words had been changed:

“The RHINO ULTIMATUM, addressed to the South African government, is given by us, the Signatories, and international awareness groups influential in the eco-tourism industry, as well as wildlife organisations, including the International Animal Rescue Foundation (est 1970)”.

  • I wish to record here that I have electronic proof where Claude/Dimetri states the IARF was actually founded in 2011 and that it was a Foundation based in France. I also have another record whereby he states a few weeks ago that he and several others involved in the IARF had not yet formed a legal entity and had decided to form a company.  

I took a screenshot yesterday (04 March) of Dimetri’s post of the original petition on 27 December on a cause website:

This clearly shows Dimetri promoting himself as the “Founder” of the Rhino Ultimatum petition.

SO WHO IS CALLING THE “RUC” SHOTS ?

A fascinating blog published on 21 January 2012, and not widely publicized on social media, is entitled “Fanatical IARF Threatens Boycotts against SA”.

It states:

“The fanatical International Animal Rescue Foundation (AIRF) has reportedly drawn more than 11 500 signatures on social networks in the past few weeks.” 

Even more fascinating is that Rian Geldenhuys, a founding director of the NGO, Section 24 Rights Coalition, posted a comment on this blog on 17 February that never bothered to raise the issue that this was not an IARF campaign alone, especially since Section 24 had already announced they would be presenting the petition at Union Buildings less than a week later.

Later that day, Joseph Dimetri made a lengthy post of his usual diatribe and polemics, threatening “coercion”. He, too, made no mention of there being South African parties (partners?) involved in the RUC.

For me – given my whole lengthy review of all these sordid matters here, I found it quite refreshing in this midst of my writing here about rights’ abuses, that Gerard Coreejes (whom I have no knowledge of) stated in response to Dimetri “…you cannot achieve ANY of your misguided objectives without aggressive coercion that is violating the legitimate rights of other people!”  (HOORAY – a totally independent opinion for all my legal woes!)

Blog link: http://www.pacificbreeze353.com/newsletters/index.cfm?y=article&company=17&article=3992&nl=615&click=web&subsection=50&langu=1

2. DEMAND vs. EXPECT:

In my 20 December post that caused such an outcry, I strongly objected to the use of the word ‘DEMAND’ throughout the petition.

In the flurry of posts and mail exchanges I faced over the following 24 hours, many people (both South African and international) believed that the wording was well justified. By the same token, many felt I was right, but they would sign the petition anyway. A handful believed I was quite correct and they didn’t sign the petition.

On the 19 January, with over 14,000 signatures collected, the petition still stated “DEMAND”.

When I read it again on 31 January, ‘DEMAND’ had been replaced with ‘EXPECT’. Given that I had played no role whatsoever in any public commentary except my initial post, one can only assume that RUC had been heavily lobbied to effect the changes, which editing I was given to understand by a friend had actually been effected about a week earlier when the petitioners’ total stood at more than 16,000.

I then asked several random people, locally and internationally, who I knew had signed it if they had been consulted. Not one of them had.

Given that around 40% of all signatories by that point would have been secured via the IARF link (according to Geldenhuys’ statement of about 6000 on 19 January), and given that many of them would have been very strong Animal Liberation Front activists with very strong views, I would think that such a change to petition is of a very serious, material nature.

As I have found no evidence in limited research on the matter, safe to say, Dimetri was re-posting the petition almost daily on various pages in the last week of January, one must assume he approved this.

I would question whether he has the right to speak on behalf of his supporters who signed, either indirectly or directly.

Additionally, given that I regard such changes as being very material, given the high levels of emotional posts all over Facebook making very strong demands on SA’s government, coupled with the individual comments added to the petition itself, and given acceptable international standards, plus the rules of the petition hosts, the RUC has committed, at the least, a severe breach of ethical behaviour over their custodial, oversight obligations.

Furthermore – and VERY important –

If Section 24 Rights Coalition has promoted itself to government as the primary organizer and custodial body of all the signatories names (and therefore their voices in the matter) and given that these changes were made without any wide consultation with those that had signed before the material edits, then Section 24 Rights Coalition has misrepresented the facts to President Zuma and all the other addressees on the petition.

There can be no other word than “misrepresented” since, effectively, 16,000 people out of 22,000 people (roughly) – being more than two-thirds of the final total – signed the petition on the basis of ‘DEMANDING’ certain performance of the South African government and not ‘EXPECTING’ certain performance.

The two words have very different meanings and, from opinion I’ve received, few members of our judicial system in this country would dare to be bold enough to say that they are not material changes and therefore there can be no misrepresentation of the facts.

In my research over the past week, there are many voices who agree with Marc Stiglingh that there might be a legitimate complaint to be laid with the SA Police Services to investigate fraud. For those unfamiliar with our legislation, the first thing any lawyer or prosecutor does is look to see if there is any monetary or other benefit that is involved. (Other could mean “material” benefit and often a “gratification” in the widest sense can apply, such as – in a ridiculous scenario – a petition organizer agrees to give away the database in return for a lucrative business contract in an unrelated field.)

There is a school of thought that believes IARF may use their seemingly influential leverage of having more than 22,000 signatories from their lead-promoter position in RUC to raise public funds for rhino and/or other animal rights projects in Europe (and/or worldwide) and therefore Dimetri and his other associates in IARF might benefit therefrom. Should that happen, it would appear that European laws would mean he could be liable for such claims/charges. (I’ve been given electronic proof that at one point, a few weeks ago, he was one of the “key holders” to the petition database, so he has access or, at least, had access previously, to would could reasonably assumed as a “valuable, and potentially commercial” database of information about signatories.) 

3. BOYCOTT OF S.A. TOURISM AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS:

The original petition launched on 19 December 2011 and for presentation to government on 22 February 2012 stated that, if the demands of the petitioners were not met on or by 22 April 2012, then the organizers would call for certain boycotts in the tourism and agricultural sector.

Around 19 January, I became aware of certain calls for immediate boycotts on IARF’s website but I paid little attention to such threats as I hadn’t noticed that being promoted on social media specifically.

In my research on the Rhino Ultimatum on 31 January, after receiving the lawyer’s letter, and over the following week, I was appalled to find widespread calls on Facebook to implement boycotts with immediate effect. Most of these had been “live” for – seemingly – the last week of January, at least.

RUC had even set up a dedicated BOYCOTT page on Facebook that had its links posted on well over a dozen other pages and the calls were receiving active attention from activists, worldwide.

Given my very strong, personal opposition to any idea of a boycott – unless every single avenue of action had been fully explored and exhausted – I resolved to write to a senior partner of the legal practice that had written to me on 31 January, to highlight this serious issue.

Aside from the fact that I opposed such a future step, I felt that RUC were so morally bankrupt that they could have secured over 15,000 signatory supporters to endorse a boycott, subject to certain terms and conditions not being met by the government of SA, but yet the end-step threat had been implemented PRIOR to government even receiving formal notification of the entire contents of the petition.

To say that I was outraged would be an understatement.

Please think about this logically and in terms of our collective, overall constitutional rights.

1. One wants government to act in a particular way;

2. One decides that they are formally going to write to the State President and various government and international leaders to demand certain action;

3. One decides that this will take the form of a global petition that will take time to gather support for;

4. One then puts certain time frames in places, including a period for government to take the remedial action demanded;

5. As part of the strategy, the ultimate goal is that if the demands are not met by a formal deadline, certain resultant actions will take place;

6. Thousands of people then endorse this campaign by adding their signatures;

7. However, the campaign management, for whatever reason, and without consulting with these constituent supporters in any way, unilaterally decide to implement “the punishment” BEFORE “the charges” have been formally presented to the “accused” and before the universally agreed deadline for “redress of wrongs” has even begun;

8. What an abuse of a multitude of rights? This is like RUC promoting a “wildcat” strike in our country, which is illegal in our country !

Here is the reasoning behind my statement here:

(a) The constitutional rights of the office of our State President is such that it be accorded dignity and respect by all – for starters – especially since, formally, he has not been notified of exactly what is being demanded of his government by the public, nor the time allowed to take corrective action, nor the consequences of his failure to deliver on the demands;

(b) The constitutional rights of ALL South Africans, whose economy and the well-being and employment of many of its citizens, could suffer as a result of “wildcat” boycott action internationally; and – equally importantly –

(c) Fundamental human rights recognition requires that – indirectly, as a result of “freedom of choice” and related matters – each and every signatory needs to be consulted, because, directly, as the signatories called for the boycott, under certain terms and conditions and they might or could each then be held directly personally accountable for any causal and resultant damages to our collective nation’s economic prosperity.

In a very similar analogy, I want to ask readers here how they would feel if they were in my shoes facing possible criminal charges.

Imagine me being advised by the police (and the media) that I face certain charges and certain things are demanded of me, failing which I could end up in jail.

In being advised by the police, I am told the investigation is underway (i.e. the gathering of signatories) and I will be presented with charges on a certain day.

Before that day arrives, the police arrive with an arrest warrant and court order and I am locked away for 5 years.

Question?

How would you feel, in terms of YOUR human rights ?

Now – answer the question … how do you think I feel … even if it is somewhat rhetorical ?

The fact that the boycott pages and the general Facebook promotion of boycotts stopped shortly after my letter to the lawyers was sent and replied to does not alter the fact this “wildcat” action was yet another material breach of the petition.

I, personally, will be writing to the State President to explain why I believe petition’s bona fides have been severely compromised and my letter will focus strongly on this boycott action point. I will further urge him to declare the petition null and void, and will lobby for other voices to support such a decision.

I will publish my letter once I have sent it.

Whether I agree with the petition or not, I would strongly oppose any action or claim by our government to discount it or regard is as voided if every step of the way had been taken by the organizing management, as per the original document, or amendments made with proper consultation with all stakeholders.  One cannot have one set of values for one issue, but a separate set for another.

4. “FAKE” SIGNATORIES: 

There is good cause to believe that the petition contains “fake” signatures.

Aside from Joseph Dimetri’s nefarious tactics that have been well documented – in part here – it is very pertinent that the website referred to earlier that hosts the images of screenshot extracts regarding fake signatures and posts by Claude Joseph Marcel.

Short-cut link (repeat of URL – for ease of access) :
http://mypersonalpagexx.weebly.com/fraud–petitions.html

Given that I have irrefutable proof from Facebook that Claude Joseph Marcel and Joseph Dimetri are the same user, and given the extensive online proof that Joseph Dimetri is the founder of IARF, it is highly disconcerting that the “masked” person in Ms. Groth’s video is a person who proposes, publicly, that one should lie on a petition.

I’ve been advised that an international activist has written to President Zuma to advise him of potential “fake” signatures and to review the lists of signatories very carefully.

I believe this question over whether or not Dimetri and other IARF members generated “fake” signatories should also be added to all the questions raised about material changes to the petition.

Both the lawyers and accountants I have discussed this matter with all believe that RUC has caused the petition to become “invalid”.

So do I.

And I feel sorry for the multitude of people who have literally gives many hours of voluntary work in the firm belief they could make a difference in the future security of rhinos.

RUC failed their biggest fans and, in turn, have clearly destroyed any reasonable credibility of any and all organizing promoters related to RUC, directly and indirectly, as at 22 February 2012 !

TO END OFF, finally…

1. Surely there should be integrity amongst ALL rights’ activists in SA if we’re ALL – as a nation – to truly fight for the protection of our rhino ?

2. Surely one cannot fight for human rights without fighting equally for environmental rights AND vice versa ?

3. Who will actually put their hands up and say, publicly, I am ultimately responsible to the world for the Rhino Ultimatum petition and campaign, without hiding behind anonymity?

4. Who will actually put their hands up and say, publicly, that Dimetri and IARF and related parties should be shut down in SA, given this very lengthy record presented here ?

5. Who will stand up to help re-build many bridges between many activists and rights groups that have been affected by the polemics resulting from IARF’s entry into the rhino, wildlife and animal protection projects that thousands of good, wholesome South Africans support on a daily basis, often under the most trying of circumstances ?

Comments are more than welcome, but please read what follows below, together with the statements on my ABOUT page here – see navigation bar link.

AND – thank you for reading this far.

Most sincerely. I never, ever envisioned that our nation – already so divided – could be torn apart by the actions of others who clearly promote “ill-considered” rights’ abuses as a means to fight other rights’ abuses.

Brian 


IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT THAT ANY CONTENT ABOVE REQUIRES EDITING, for any reason whatsoever, I will record the changes made below, together with my reasons, as well as the date and time of such amendments.

For the record, I erroneously clicked the publish tab instead of the edit tab at about 05h00 on Saturday 03 March 2012.  This meant that my rough draft of this blog went “live” on my Facebook wall, without final editing. I am aware that it was seen by 2 of my FB friends and once they responded – unexpectedly – I realized the mistake. I immediately added a password protection feature to ensure that only the headline and opening few words could be read. I apologized on my FB wall post. I will record here the time I lift the password protection feature and that will mean it is formally been published in the public domain. 

Official publication: At about 15h30 (Central African Time – CAT) on Monday, 05 March 2012. 





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