DA: Government unwilling to tackle rhino poaching as a priority crime

BY TAI CHISHAKWE - OCTOBER 7, 2014

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday accused government of showing unwillingness when it comes to tackling rhino poaching as a priority crime despite the National Joint Operations and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints) “elevating” rhino poaching to a priority crime in March 2013.

“The Department of Priority Crimes Unit within the HAWKS has for at least the last 5 years been responsible for investigating all rhino poaching incidents across the country.

“But according to Mr. Rodney Visser, the National Security Head of the Shamwari group, HAWKS officials were recently instructed that the responsibility for investigating rhino poaching incidents had been handed over to the SAPS Stock Theft unit who do not investigate priority crimes,” said Terri Stander, the DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs.

“Further, the joint SAPS, SANDF and Special Ops Forces deployed in the Kruger National Park (KNP) on 01 September might be withdrawn as funding was only secured to keep them there until 12 October 2014.

“During a recent oversight visit to the KNP, the DA learned that the Joint Forces had spent large sums of money to set up operations and had gained invaluable insight into poaching activities on the ground. Withdrawing these forces just as they are starting to defend our natural heritage would be grossly irresponsible.”

He said the recent release of National Crime Statistics mysteriously excluded statistics of the rhino poaching epidemic. 

“If rhino poaching is a priority crime why are the statistics being hidden?

“The answer is that Government is failing to treat rhino poaching as a priority crime, and cannot defend its terrible record.  It is failing to act to deter poachers and syndicates against the slaughter of our rhino, and it is failing the men and women who risk their lives combatting poaching incidents on a daily basis,” said Stander.

He said as the world celebrates Animal Week, this week, it is time for the South African government to realise that our indigenous fauna is an integral part of our natural heritage.

“Taking our animal life for granted will have dire consequences for our eco-tourism economy, upon which so many communities rely on for sustenance and jobs,” Stander warned.