Friends of Free Wildlife’s Margi Brocklehurst discusses the current situation at FreeMe Wildlife Centre.
FreeMe meeting postponed due to complaints: Randburg Sun 29 January 2016
Written by Ashtyn Mackenzie
FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation NPC called a general meeting at the German Country Club on 28 January.
Friends of Free Wildlife members were also present, adorning white T-shirts with the logo #savefreeme. Many posters and banners were created with some saying, “It’s all about the animals not the $’s” and “You can Maar Go.”
The meeting was officially opened by the chairman Sathiananthan Govender. The purpose of the meeting is in response to a request for a general meeting of the company, which was delivered to the Board of Directors on 27 October in 2015. This in short, was a request to have the current board members, Margo Bansda, Rosamond Gerber, Willem Hoogstad and Sathiananthan Govender, removed with immediate effect.
The main issue raised was the validity of the quorum. Govender said, “This could have been discussed before the meeting.” The question of the validity was raised because according to FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation NPC Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI), “The quorum requirement for a members’ meeting to begin, or for a matter to be considered… namely sufficient persons present at the meeting to exercise, in aggregate, at least 25 per cent of all voting rights that are entitled to be exercised at the meeting.”
Attorney on record for Friends of Free Wildlife Allan Warrener, argued that his opposition to the continuation be put into the minutes. Govender requested that any further complaints be written down and presented to the Board to deal with at a later stage.
The next large objection was the validity of the members’ list that entitled those on the list admittance into the meeting. Many members present complained that the list was grossly inaccurate and numerous current members were barred access. He proposed that the meeting be postponed due to complaints from certain members.
After much deliberation, Govender postponed the meeting in order to resolve the issues raised.
Margo Bansda, managing director of FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation NPC said, “We wish to implement processes that will streamline operations, including making FreeMe an appealing and attractive establishment as well as to create better partnerships with other rehabilitation centres and partners.”
Bansda further added that quality care for the animals is the most important task they are undertaking. She explained that they are currently trying to work out a lease with Joburg City Parks and Zoo, a lease that FreeMe never had previously.
Members of Free Wildlife stated that they have valid proof of all of the accusations they have made against the Board. Su Hemer said, “We are not interested in what the previous Board did. What we want is a vote of no confidence for the current Board. All we want is for FreeMe to be run how it used to be in 2008/9 and for the focus to be about the animals.”
An updated article will be published with regard to Bansda’s further vision for FreeMe Wildlife Rehabiliataion NPC as well as Karien Schmidt, the senior animal rehabilitator’s comments on rehabilitation.
Friends of Free Wildlife go forward: Randburg Sun 18 January 2016
The open meeting for Friends of Free Wildlife was well attended on 16 January at the Rivonia Recreation Centre.
The ‘Mawkss’ that management of Friends of Free Wildlife (previously called Friends of FreeMe, until they were forced to change their name and logo) have affectionately called themselves, hosted the open meeting to address concerns of the greater public. Margi Brocklehurst, an active partner of the Mawkss said, “We had this meeting to address the public but also to discuss the way forward for FreeMe Gauteng and Friends of Free Wildlife.”
FreeMe Gauteng temporarily shut down on 10 November due to a host of issues including mismanagement.
The major concern was the current cases still being treated at FreeMe Gauteng. Brocklehurst explained that animal cases outside of FreeMe Gauteng are being treated by the large network of qualified volunteers which are a part of Friends of Free Wildlife. She added that there are a number of meercats and tortoises that are still at FreeMe Gauteng and that should have been rehabilitated months before and released.
A number of legal routes were discussed with the public including taking the current board members (Margo Bansda, Shathi Govender and Ros Gerber) to court. Here, they will argue that the many members of FreeMe Gauteng that are not in support of the current Board have been disenfranchised and their right to vote for Board members has been removed by the Board itself. Simply put, in 2012 the memorandum of FreeMe Gauteng was changed. The change took power away from the members who were previously able to appoint Board members. It changed to the extent that now, Board members are the only ones allowed to vote in Board members making the use of ordinary members (who are volunteers that have worked at FreeMe Gauteng for more than six months) null and void.
Ultimately, Brocklehurst and other members emphasised that they would like the resignations of the current Board of FreeMe Gauteng. “The Friends of Free Wildlife want to re-open FreeMe Gauteng and run it as a world-class wildlife rehabilitation centre ethically, being a fully compliant non-profit company, maintaining good relationships with the NSPCA and the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development,” said Brocklehurst.
Friends of Free Wildlife on FreeMe: Fourways Review 18 December 2015
Ignorance closed sanctuary: Sunday Times 13 December 2015
“CLAWS out as wildlife haven has wings clipped” (December 6) refers. The remark by FreeMe’s director, Margo Bansda, that the volunteers were upset because they couldn’t come and play with the animals any more, shows the level of ignorance about wildlife rehabilitation that has brought down this once proud community institution. Animals in rehab at FreeMe were never “played with”. They were cleaned, medicated, fed and care for. Any orphaned mammal requires around-the-clock-feeding. This was often done by experienced volunteers who took the animal home and gave up their sleep to bottle-feed in the middle of the night. The objective always being the animal’s eventual release back into the wild. After 18 years of volunteer-run service, it has taken the new board and rehabilitation manager less than six months to create conditions so bad that the NSPCA has had to close the centre.
We need the current board to resign and for FreeMe to reopen, with the expert rehab staff that were forced out, and volunteers, back in place. — Peggy Ann Mist, by e-mail.
The Randburg sun reports on the open meeting held by the Friends of FreeMe (now Friends of Free Wildlife):
Margi Brocklehurst said, “We as ex-volunteers or staff are not allowed on FreeMe Gauteng property and as a result, we had to host this meeting right next door.”
Brocklehurst reiterated the issues of mismanagement that have resulted in the closure of the organisation.
Sheryl Fox, a past volunteer, has been working tirelessly to work effectively with legal entities in order to resolve the issue.
“The problem is that current board members are able to vote in other members,” she said.
Fox explained that they had submitted about 40 CVs to FreeMe Gauteng in order to become members, also that a volunteer has the right to become a member after six months. “Of the 40 we submitted, only two were accepted – the others were rejected for a variety of reasons.”
Bansda apparently sent an email to Paulshof residents, desperately explaining the situation.
It read, “In October we appointed Karien Schmidt as the FreeMe rehabilitator and then they totally rebelled, stole animals and databases, laid complaints with the NSPCA and went on strike – all having an impact on the animals and their mortality.” The email from Bansda further said, “These rogue volunteers are represented by a few volunteers and it seems that this is not about the animals but power,” adding that, “In the meantime there may be a possibility (due to a badly written MOI) that these few volunteers can call for an AGM. These women have also requested this AGM to oust the current board. We are doing everything in our power to deal with things from a legal perspective but I think the Paulshof community needs to know what is happening and protect the organisation.”
There has been much controversy surrounding the sudden closure of FreeMe Wild Life Rehabilitation Centre on 10 November. …
The NSPCA said, “Rehabilitation of animals must not be undertaken by just anyone – it requires specialist skills and experience to rescue, rehabilitate and release animals.” They further explained how, “too many wild animals end up permanently in cages as a result of rehabilitation attempts by people with good intentions but who lack the experience”. They commented that anyone involved in the rehabilitation of wild animals is required to obtain a permit in terms of the conservation legislation.
Sunday Times: 6 December 2015
Isabel Wentze, manager of the NSPCA’s wildlife protection unit, said there had been reports of “a number of events that occurred at the centre” which ultimately led to the organisation’s temporary closure. “The NSPCA was suddenly overwhelmed by concerns and unhappiness expressed by volunteers and staff on the day-to-day operatational side of the centre, changes being implement, care being provided or the lack thereof, and the management of cases,” said Wentzel.
FreeMe’s director, Margo Bansda, denied the centre was badly run. She accused volunteers of not following instructions of newly hired rehabilitation manager, Karien Schmidt. Bansda went on to say: ‘This is hugely emotional [for them] because we are saying they cannot come and play with the animals any more. What happened before … is not the way FreeMe should be operating.’
Margi Brocklehurst, a former CEO of FreeMe speaks to Radio Today’s Errol Ballantine about the current situation at FreeMe .
A passionate supporter of the Friends of Free Wildlife, Ainsely Hay, chats with Margie Brocklehurst, Wendy Brodie and Claudius Sibanda on 2 December 2015.
Highlights include the Friends sharing some of their memories of from working at FreeMe.