Civilized life has altogether grown too tame, and, if it is to be stable, it must provide a harmless outlets for the impulses which our remote ancestors satisfied in hunting.-Bertrand Russell
2016 PRESIDENT’S REPORT
By Bruce Ambrose
“We have struck an iceberg … sinking fast … come to our assistance.” On a cold evening in 1912, that message blasted out across the airwaves. Before the last bit of Morse code was tapped out, those words became an epitaph for the 1 200 people who lost their lives aboard the Titanic. The ship slowly sank into its watery grave.Some of you may have watched the iconic movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. The sinking of the Titanic provides invaluable lessons for us.One of the benefits of the sinking is this: Had this unsinkable ship not sunk, many more ships of the same design would have been built. Can you imagine the loss of life that could have resulted had the specifications and approach to shipbuilding not been influenced by this tragedy?
The reason that I mention this is to draw attention to the financial issues that our Association has experienced this year. You will recall that we discussed the need for a re-audit – going back for some five years – to be undertaken. In this audit, it was established that there was a significant amount of VAT that had not been paid, which has also attracted a fine and interest due to the late payment.
If that wasn’t enough, we have experienced a severe drought in South Africa and especially in the northern parts of KwaZulu-Natal. The result of this was that the income we normally expect from the Phongolo hunts did not materialise. The drought also negatively affected the income expected from the Golf Day auction.
Our cash reserves have taken a hammering. In fact, we have either not collected a budgeted R330 000 and have simultaneously had to pay out some R841 263. This has greatly diminished our reserves.
To get back to the Titanic, we have experienced a traumatic time financially and have managed to weather the storm. If this VAT issue had perpetuated for another year or two, we would have been in serious trouble.
A significant downside is that during this five-year period, we had a comfortable
surplus. The subscription fees were not increased by very much as it was not deemed to be necessary. However, after the loss of income and the effects of the drought, there is now a great need to catch up. At this point, should anyone have a demonstrable constraint, we can discuss the matter on a “person to person” basis.
I remind you that these issues were not caused by your current EXCO, but by poor guidance from the previous auditors. However, the corrective action has been taken and systems are in place to avoid a repeat. There will be more about this in the Financial Report.
Incidentally, please note that the CEO of CHASA does not earn the R40/member but rather this contributes towards his salary and his operating expenses.
Another matter that I also raised last year was the shooting range. Your EXCO has worked hard on this project. The initial land purchase was going to be some 30HA. This turned out to be unaffordable, as the donations received were insufficient. Through our good relationship and the amazing co-operation of Mr Seamus Thompson (the adjacent land owner) we have been able to reduce the area to about half the original extent. This has also reduced our capital requirement to a manageable level.
Now, the development of the range needs our attention. One of the cardinal errors that can be made is to try and scale up too quickly. In most cases, this would condemn the project to fail.
There are two matters I think we need to appreciate: the first is that this potentially large operation is very attractive to the Association. The additional profits will transform our Association. The second is that we must avoid the underlying belief that the development is linear. It is not a “sausage machine” but rather a fairly complex web of facilities and activities that require careful planning and execution.
In order to grow the operation, we must not push its income projections too hard in the early stages in order to reach a size sufficiently large to significantly contribute to the Association. Our targets and preparatory steps must be taken in the correct order and be assured – this will be done correctly.
This approach relies on an underlying belief that the development of the range must begin by being small and grow in accordance with our expertise, collaborations and ability to deliver.
There needs to be a fundamental division in the progression towards success: there
needs to be an initial incubation period, and then, if this incubation is successful, an opening up to larger scale growth. Progression in this initial period must mainly be qualitative. We need to set the correct foundations with the appropriate partners. Trying to shorten this period is like building the project on sand.
We must first develop our network of contacts, partners, service providers and interested parties, while allowing our own expertise to evolve. This will be a slow and tedious process, difficult to accelerate.
One of the key benefits will also be the ability of our members to participate in competitions, practise and shooting exercises. All of these are necessary pursuits for ethical hunting.
Moving on to some other operational matters, our membership continues to grow. As with all associations, there is always a number of members that do not renew – for a variety of reasons. We are in the fortunate position that we gain about 7 members per working week and can expect to lose about 200 per year. This leave us in a positive position and we are pleased to report that we are sitting at 3011 members as at 31 October, being the highest number of members the Association has achieved to date.
The last innovation that I want to discuss is that of hunting opportunities – mainly in terms of Kameelkop. Your Exco will continue to pursue additional hunting opportunities for the benefit of our members. There are a lot of promising prospects that we are working on.
As communicated to you, we need to review the Association Constitution in order to make it more appropriate for our current needs. Thank you to all for your input and comments – this will be discussed in greater detail later in the agenda.
Now for a word about the fees increase. This can sometimes be quite an emotive business. I would like to assure you that the budget was set on a bottom-up basis. Our costs have risen – like everyone’s have. However, over the recent years we increased the fees only slightly because we were unaware of the pending VAT and auditor’s payments. We were also unaware of the drought situation that would curtain our income. All these factors have all arrived at the same time.
For those that are accounting-minded, you will quickly calculate that the total amount of capital outgoing for the audit and VAT plus the loss of auction income far exceeds the additional fees per member that is being asked for. Thank you to everyone that understands the situation and who have paid the extra fees without making the office staff suffer the consequences.
I would like to assure you that no association funds are being used on the development of the shooting range or for anything that is not directed at all the members. I would also like to bring the following to your attention: there is a direct link between the subscription fees we pay and the actions of a few dedicated members of our association. The link is like this: certain members are happy to bid at the auctions and pay a premium price for a package. This generosity translates into additional income for the association. This additional income supports our costs and helps to ensure the subscription fee are contained as much as possible. Unfortunately, these valuable members have, in recent years, not been able to contribute and the association therefore needs to find income to support our expenses in another way. We really need to thank these generous members and, of course Ezemvelo, for their many years of indirect support of our subscription fees.
Please also be reminded that our EXCO is a group of volunteers who devote their
personal time, on a part-time basis, to running the association. Lastly, I see glimpses of a future where the impact of the range will require a further full-time employee to come in alongside our Executive Officer. Your EXCO will evaluate this and you will be kept informed.