Minister Edna Molewa welcomes arrest of suspected rhino poachers by the Hawks
26 November 2015
The Minister of Environmental Affairs Mrs Edna Molewa, welcomes the arrest of 12 suspects including three police officers for alleged rhino poaching by this week. The suspects were arrested by a multi-disciplinary and intelligence operation led by the Hawks in Gauteng and North West Provinces.
The arrest is indicative of government’s commitment to fight the on-going scourge of rhino poaching in South Africa. Earlier this month, President Jacob Zuma visited the Kruger National Park, which is the epicentre of the poaching epidemic. President Zuma opened the Mission Area Joint Operations Center – the latest weapon in our arsenal to combat this crime.
“Government acknowledges that environmental crime – and poaching in particular, does more than threaten the South Africa’s natural resources. It also results in financial burden and loss of economic and development opportunities in our country,” says Minister Molewa.
Environmental crime is a real threat to security and the rule of law, not least of all in the same communities the poachers operate in. Such criminality threatens the livelihoods of our people at a very fundamental level, it tears families apart, and it results in loss of support and causes a host of social problems.
In 2014 rhino poaching was declared a national priority crime in South Africa and has resulted in a multidisciplinary, multi-sectoral approach focused on collaboration through our National Security Structure.
Some of these structures operate horizontally and vertically and involve Police structures, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), Intelligence Community, Park Rangers, Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI's), Border and Customs officials, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and private rhino owners.
“We retain the utmost confidence that this multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral approach is successful as we continue to register a number of successes in our fight against poaching, especially with regards to the dismantling and disruption of criminal syndicates,” says Minister Molewa.
In terms of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros, as approved by Cabinet last year, the closer coordination of operations between departments has been key to all our anti-poaching efforts.
To further boost local joint collaborative effort at a national level, South Africa continues to work with regional and international enforcement networks such as the World Customs Organisation (WCO), the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), the CITES Secretariat and Interpol.
Through working with these bodies government is able to strengthen its priority actions at a national level as well as harness the support of international partners for those priorities that involve transnational syndicates.
South Africa has and will continue to play a key role on the Advisory Board of INTERPOL’s Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee. Last week, Minister Molewa attended the 2nd Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Conference in Singapore.
The Conference provided an important opportunity for countries affected by wildlife crime to take stock, as well as to identify further strategies to address the challenges we face.
The importance of global intelligence exchange among police, other investigating authorities and non-governmental organizations to support successful investigations was stressed.
A global action plan is being developed that will emphasise the recommendations put forward by the more than 140 high-level experts from 50 countries and 20 international organizations attending the conference.
It will focus on four main areas:
- Multi-agency cooperation;
- Increasing capability through training;
- Awareness raising; and
- Strengthening of legislative and regulatory mechanisms.
South Africa will ensure that we focus on the implementation of the actions once the plan is finalised. This we will align with the objectives of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros.
- Compulsory Interventions such as the disruption of criminal activities and organised crime networks. This entails a multi-sectoral approach focused on collaboration through our national security forces and systems
- Strengthening the capacity of the Criminal Justice System through training of officials.
- Long-term sustainability measures aimed at growing rhino numbers and populations. This involves among others translocations to other range States as well as to safer areas in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent and the world;
- Stronger collaboration with Private Sector and the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Sector.
- The enhanced use of technology as well as the introduction of new technologies; especially in the Kruger National Park where our Mission Joint Operations Center is located.
- Enhanced Border Management Systems
- Improving overall communication and information sharing
- The enhancement of International partnerships and collaboration through well-structured Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the rhino range states, transit and end-user countries such as Mozambique, Cambodia, Vietnam and China who we already have MOUs with
- The implementation of our MoU with Mozambique in particular is well underway as both sides continue to implement anti-poaching strategies that include village resettlements on the Mozambican side, and the launch of a special Police Unit for Natural Resource and Environment Protection in Mozambique. South Africa will also soon hand over much needed anti-poaching equipment to Mozambique including a light aircraft to provide aerial support during anti-poaching operations.
The Department of Environmental Affairs has long emphasised that people are the cornerstone of conservation. By facilitating the creation of sustainable livelihoods for communities and giving them a stake in the management of wildlife, they will be less vulnerable to recruitment by poaching syndicates. It is for this reason that the DEA continues to facilitate the creation of alternative livelihoods for vulnerable communities. The recently adopted Biodiversity Economy Strategy is just one of a raft of measures introduced to enable communities to reap the benefits of conservation by making them partners in the management of wildlife.
“Combating rhino poaching is not the responsibility of government alone. I therefore want to make a call once again for all South Africans to join government in protecting one of Africa’s iconic species. We owe it to the next generations of South Africans to succeed in our efforts,” Minister Molewa urges South Africans.
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