Minister Edna Molewa’s speech on the occasion of the signing of a MoU between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Mozambique

17 April 2014

 

Programme Director,
Honourable Minister Carvalho Muaria, the Mozambique Minister of Tourism,
Honourable High Commissioner for Mozambique to South Africa, Mr Fernando Fazenda,
Director General of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Nosipho Ngcaba,
Director General for the Mozambique National Administration of Conservation, Mr Abdala Mussa,
CEO of the Peace Parks Foundation, Mr Werner Myburgh,
Acting Chief Executive of SANParks, Mr Abe Sibiya,
Senior government officials,

Invited guests

Today is an auspicious occasion.  It is a day that will be marked as a milestone in the growth of the excellent relations between the governments of South Africa and Mozambique.

South Africa’s relationship with Mozambique has grown since the dark days of apartheid to a time where we are able to celebrate 20 years of Democracy and Freedom.  Democracy in South Africa would not have been possible were it not for our friends and neighbours in Mozambique.

Much as the countries of Southern Africa cannot be separated from a shared history and struggle for freedom, so too can we not be detached from our shared history of conservation and development.   Many of the national parks that exist in the region today were once areas of conflict and war.

Today that war has taken on a different guise.  It is a war against the wildlife of the region which is a source of tourism and income for our countries, and an important source of job creation and poverty alleviation.

South Africa is involved in six transfrontier conservation areas that involve 10 countries. The objective of establishing these cross-border conservation areas is multi-faceted with objectives ranging from conservation and ecotourism to promoting peace, harmony and stability.

Unfortunately, the road to achieving these objectives has not always been easy as we are faced with an increase in wildlife crime in the region.

Mozambique is a key strategic partner for South Africa within the SADC region. It is within this context that South Africa recognised the need for engaging with Mozambique on wildlife management. This is particularly with respect to addressing the scourge of rhino poaching within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP). Escalating incidences of poaching have become a major challenge within the GLTP, both to rhino and elephant populations.

The signing of a treaty on the establishment, development and management of the GLTP by the Heads of State of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe in 2002 signified the maturity of the relationship between the three countries.  It culminated in a number of successes that included the creation of Giriyondo tourist access facility, the translocation of more than 5 000 animals to the Limpopo National Park and facilitating the natural migration numerous species, as well as an overall enhancement of the relationship between the three countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the underlying reasons for the poaching are diverse,  and include trade and market dynamics, legislative and administrative gaps as well as organized crime and investigation challenges.

It has also been recognised that to address the escalating trend in poaching, there are other socio-economic issues that require attention. It is understood that people who are recruited into poaching activities are largely those facing serious socio-economic challenges, while the kingpins of organised crime syndicates involved are elsewhere living a life of luxury.

The level of poverty and unemployment that exists within communities living adjacent to protected areas contributes to local community members being vulnerable to recruitment for poaching.  Addressing the socio-economic conditions of rural communities is a priority for both our countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Kruger National Park (KNP) continues to bear the brunt of rhino poaching.  Since 2008 more than 2000 rhino have been poached in South Africa, with 1004 rhino being killed for their horns during 2013.   Since the start of 2014, 294 rhino have been poached, with an escalating number of arrests in the first four months of this year.  A total of 93 people have been arrested.

As government, we have been actively involved on various levels, locally and internationally, to fight the ongoing poaching  scourge.

Since 2008 the South African government has implemented a holistic, integrated and multidimensional response, involving all relevant government departments, including conservation authorities, enforcement and intelligence agencies, customs, the prosecuting authorities and other national, regional and international organisations and stakeholders, to address increased rhino crimes and enhance protection of the species.  Initiatives to address rhino poaching have included not only increasing the number of rangers protecting our wildlife, but also improving regional and international collaboration with range and consumer states, as well as introducing legislation and policy measures to support the tasks of those working to ensure rhino and other wildlife threatened by poachers and crime syndicates are protected and will not become extinct.

During 2013 international cooperation with rhino consumer states in the Far East was increased with the aim of improving teamwork in dealing with the scourge of rhino poaching. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with the People’s Republic of China on cooperation in the fields of Wetland and Desert Ecosystems and Wildlife Conservation.

The MoU signed with Vietnam in 2012 on cooperation in the field of Biodiversity Conservation and Protection was followed by the signing of an Implementation Plan in 2013 that put into action the terms of the MoU.

A high level delegation from Vietnam undertook a working visit to South Africa in March 2014 to emphasise the commitment by Vietnam to improving cooperation on biodiversity conservation, especially controlling the illicit trade and poaching of wildlife, including rhino.  A second workshop is being planned for later this year.

Closer to home, in September 2013, the Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security, under the leadership of the South African National Defence Force, adopted a decision that has enabled South Africa to collaborate with Mozambique to develop and implement a common strategy to deal with poaching. Progress has been made in this regard and it is hoped that the results will soon become evident.

South Africa, as a member of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), has joined other Member States in recognising that wildlife trafficking is a significant conservation, safety and security, and social issue that has far-reaching impact on species, ecosystems, livelihoods, sustainable development, economies and national and regional security.

In 2013, officials from the Department of Environmental Affairs and the University of Pretoria’s Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, in collaboration with the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC)have trained Mozambican law enforcement officers in DNA sampling. Rangers have also been given anti-poaching training.

Parliament elevated the rhino poaching matter through the work being done by the Parliamentary Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs.  Following a meeting in the Kruger National Park in December 2013, the workshop had proposed, amongst others, the increased involvement of communities, including community ownership of rhino and benefit-sharing by communities; emphasis on cross-border collaboration, including cross-border enforcement operations to disrupt local criminal networks; enhancing actionable intelligence to enable South Africa to disrupt transnational criminal networks involved in the illegal trade in rhino horn; and incentivise the trade and possession of rhino as a live commodity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is important to note that the Department of Environmental Affairs was authorised by Cabinet to explore a model for trade in rhino horn.

The Panel of Experts has been appointed to assist the Inter-Ministerial Committee appointed by Cabinet to deliberate on the matters relating to a possible trade in rhino horn and commenced its work with the first meeting that took place on 9 April 2014.   The 10 member Panel is chaired by Mr Fundisile Mketeni, the Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation and will report to the Inter-Ministerial Committee before the end of the year.

Good progress has been made in the implementation of a Draft Cooperation Agreement on the Joint Protection and Management of the Rhino and Elephant Population in the Great Limpopo Park and Conservation Area, which was endorsed as an implementation strategy to combat wildlife crime at the bilateral meeting held between Minister Muaria and I in June 2013.

The Draft Cooperation Agreement has resulted in increased joint collaboration efforts on rhino anti-poaching interventions on park management level.

The development of a Joint Operations Cross Border Protocol by the park managements will, once approved by the safety and security clusters of the two countries, provide for joint cross-border operations.

Additional steps being taken by our two countries include:

  • Immediate maintenance and erection of fencing along the eastern boundary of Kruger National Park with Mozambique;
  • Strengthening of the buffer zone in Mozambique through the establishment of the Greater Lubombo Conservancy;
  • Creation of an intensive protection zone in the Limpopo National Park;
  • Deploying a well-trained and armed anti-poaching unit for joint collaboration with the Kruger National Park team and the
  • Synchronisation of operational plans between the Limpopo and Kruger National Parks.

South Africa has committed R24.9 million from the R252 million Swedish and Dutch Postcode Lottery donation secured by the Peace Parks Foundation to Mozambique to assist with anti-poaching efforts.

This will assist with the implementation of counter-trafficking measures, the improvement of communication networks, the training and capacity building of field rangers, the provision of vital operational equipment, the deployment of sniffer dogs and community awareness projects.

Management teams from the two parks are finalizing the detailed project plans.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the enactment of the Conservation Areas Act by the Parliament of the Government of Mozambique on 9 April 2014 is a sign of the commitment of South Africa’s neighbour and friend to fighting the scourge of wildlife crime presently plaguing our countries.

The new Act further commits Mozambique to its international biodiversity conservation obligations and recognises transfrontier conservation areas as one of its national conservation area categories.  It provides for significant sentences for wildlife crime related activities, including rhino poaching.

The signing of the MOU with Mozambique today comes within the context of the strengthening of relations between our two countries to enhance the protection of endangered species, such as the rhino, while working towards a common and coordinated management approach for the GLTP.

In terms of the MOU, some of the main areas of cooperation will be biodiversity management, conservation and protection; the promotion of biodiversity sustainable use as an integral part of conservation of species and ecosystems; biodiversity law enforcement and wildlife trade, protected areas management, community development through a biodiversity economy.

Within the coming months, a further diplomatic agreement will be signed by South Africa and Mozambique to ensure the MOU comes into force.

We look forward to continued engagement with the Government of Mozambique in ensuring our wildlife is not decimated, and ultimately the livelihoods of the people of our two countries is not destroyed.

I Thank You.