Conservation for the Future
With his financial background in a large conglomerate, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife can congratulate themselves for having secured the expertise of Darius Chitate. His 12 years in a neighbouring country, after receiving his Chartered Accountant degree, taught him valuable lessons which he is putting to good use in his current position as Chief Financial Officer for Ezemvelo.
He was appointed to this position in 2013, but started his career with conservation in 2006. His capabilities were soon realised and he was promoted to his current position without much ado.
Chitate is passionate about the Ezemvelo’s commitment to the empowerment and upliftment of the communities in the area and it is evident that providing sustainable job opportunities are close to his heart. Chitate says, “Failure to manage our resources would have a catastrophic impact on the
livelihood of millions of people, the tourist industry and the survival of many other businesses relying indirectly on them.” However, he is well aware of the fact that much needs to be done for man and the environment to successfully co-exist and believes that educating the community on environmental issues is the way to secure an eco-friendly future for the next generation.
His financial acumen sees him directing and overseeing the full financial function of Ezemvelo. This includes, but is not limited to, developing and articulating well-defined financial and business planning frameworks within which managers can respond and contribute effectively. Strategy formulation to ensure Ezemvelo mobilises the financial resources required to meet its mission and managing financial risk by establishing and maintaining appropriate systems, are also part of his portfolio as are the procedures, policies and reports to ensure effective and efficient management of financial resources
One of his key focus areas is developing a supply chain management system that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective. This needs to be done to support the principle of broad based black economic empowerment, the formulation and delivery of global-standard viable and effective value propositions to all key stakeholders of Ezemvelo and provide support to the Board, Chief Executive Officer and other senior managers in the execution of their functions. Lastly, it is his responsibility to ensure compliance with the provisions of applicable legislation, regulations and accounting standards.
His portfolio entails mobilising and controlling resource deployment through a transparent budget process, backed by robust internal control processes that include, among other things, co-ordinating and directing the financial planning, budgeting and procurement activities for the entire organisation. Developing and recommending an annual budget for Board approval and to prudently manage organisational resources within those budget guidelines, according to current laws and regulations, also fall into the wide spectrum of his responsibilities as Chief Financial Officer. It is his brief to ensure that organisational activities are financed in a cost effective and efficient manner, implementing and ensuring compliance with organisational accounting policies, guidelines and procedures for activities such as cash and credit management, evaluating financial performance and making recommendations to achieve organisational objectives, amongst others.
In the long-term, the Finance Division’s mission is to provide a platform for developing and maintaining a comparative advantage by positioning the organisation in a way that both adds and signals positive value to finance stakeholders, as well as designing and implementing finance and supply chain strategies that will will achieve Ezemvelo’s vision of being a world renowned leader in the field of biodiversity conservation.
From a social point of view, Chitate explains, Ezemvelo’s philosophy is to do business in such a way that it uplifts, acknowledges and educates the communities in which it operates. A percentage of the generated tourism income is ring-fenced as community levy and utilised to fund various projects such as upgrading schools and crèches. Ezemvelo also provides scholarships to a number of students from surrounding communities for further tertiary education. In collaboration with other organisations and community leaders, Ezemvelo also runs the Ezemvelo Soccer Cup initiative which is aimed at mobilising talent which would otherwise go unnoticed. This initiative is also directed at raising awareness to combat the ever growing threat of poaching.
Chitate is adamant that, in order to ensure that wildlife and Ezemvelo itself remain relevant in this country, it is of the utmost importance to combat the scourge of poaching, while at the same time offering a value proposition to the tourism market that’s hard to beat. His passion for the environment is noticeable in all he says and does and he does indeed put his money where his mouth is.
At the financial helm of an organisation conserving biological assets and ecosystems of more than R150 billion, Chitate takes not only his responsibilities seriously, but is adamant that KwaZulu Natal should become the holiday destination of choice. At the same time, his contribution as Chief Financial Officer does not deter from his vision of leaving an ecological legacy for the next generation.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife oversees 114 reserves, of which 100 are in rural areas which is why community involvement is of the utmost importance to sustain the ecological balance. With Chitate holding the keys to the financial coffers, there is no doubt that the future of the regional assets in the form of fauna and flora, are in capable hands.
CASE IN POINT | KZN Wildlife
by Alex Rose-Innes