No more Gauteng FreeMe

A screenshot of the entrance to the now closed FreeMe on Holkham Road in Paulshof. Photo: Google Maps.

FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, which is currently based in Paulshof, is relocating to Broederstroom in the North West Province.

This is according to FreeMe managing director and a director of the board, Margo Bansda.

FreeMe was established in 1997 and was run as a non-profit organisation (NPO) but was changed to a non-profit company (NPC) on 12 January 2004.

Bansda explained that she is from a corporate background. “When I was then appointed by the previous board, my directive was to streamline and restructure the organisation so that it becomes attractive to international funding. This included professionalising the rehabilitation standards of FreeMe,” said Bansda.

“This resulted in resistance from some of the staff and volunteers.”

When Karien Schmidt started in 2015 as the new rehabilitation and nutrition specialist, she incorporated some new structures that, according to her, she thought would be better suited for rehabilitation purposes, resulting in the volunteers going on strike.

Bansda acknowledged that it became a power struggle between the board and the volunteers but according to the Company’s Act, which she said she sticks to, the board has the first and last say.

Schmidt said that she noticed an inconsistency at the centre and it became a huge problem, so they invited the NSPCA for a site inspection. “They hadn’t been there for years,” said Bansda.

Read more: NSPCA temporarily closes FreeMee Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

Also read: NSPCA expresses long process ahead for FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre to receive their permit

Rumours started that the FreeMe board was taking money under the table and rumours about FreeMe have not stopped since 2015. Recent rumours were that an auction was held at the FreeMe grounds on Friday. Fourways Review visited FreeMe and there was no auction.

Now, Bansda said the centre is in the process of relocating. Both Bansda and Schmidt said they have been trying to get a lease from City Parks and Zoo but they alleged they had been ‘misled’ and were unsuccessful. Fourways Review is currently in communication with City Parks on this matter.

Bansda said FreeMe will move to the Glen Afric Country Lodge but no animals will be moved, as all their Gauteng permits for animals expired and the last tortoises were released in March this year.

Schmidt made it clear that this would be a fresh start for FreeMe and a place where they can focus on the well-being of animals.

Fourways Review will follow this story as it develops.


Related article:

Wildlife C.A.R.E helps rehabilitate wild animals due to FreeMe closure


Marnelle Greyling

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