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The Occasion of the Parliamentary Debate on Rhino Poaching and its Impact on Our Heritage by the Deputy Minister of Police, Hon Ms Makhotso Maggie Sotyu (MP)
02 September 2014

Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
All people in the Public Gallery,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

South Africa prides itself for being home to eight of the world’s official heritage sites, as determined by the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee (Isimangaliso Wetland Park in KZN; Robben Island in WC; Cradle of Humankind in GP and NW; Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park in KZN; Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape in LIM; Cape Floral Region in NC and WC; Vredefort Dome in FS and NW; and Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape in NC).

These eight landmarks are not sites for beauty only; they are inherently linked to our socio-economic development through tourism.

Should any of these natural and cultural sites and their related inhabitants and animals be threatened in anyway, our socio-economic security also gets destabilized.

And, regrettably, we are here to debate on one of the threats that, if not effectively and efficiently addressed, we will see our national security damaged and our economy eroded.

It is a fact that South Africa, until 2010 at least, was viewed as the primary custodian of Africa’s white rhinos, with approximate of 93% (about a total of 18790 white rhinos) representation in South Africa alone.

Sadly, since then, there has been a dramatic decrease in this number due to the brutal killings of these animals by criminals for their horns.

The people who plan to kill animals for their body parts are nothing more than heinous criminals who have no regard for the importance of our ecosystem in its entirety, and our dependency on it to survive, and for the future of our children.

Probably, then that is why we are gathered here to debate, discuss and deliberate on better ways to intervene to fight the scourge of these senseless killings on our wildlife.

Yes, there is a consistent growing concern to combat rhino killings and mutilation for their horns.

And, as police, we received numerous lambasting comments, alleging that we are not doing enough to increase the arrest for quick prosecutions and stiffer sentencing.

But, as the Leadership of Police, I, and the Minister of Police would be the first ones to say, the police have initiated a lot of breakthroughs to fight against rhino poaching and other similar attacks on our endangered species.

Our National Commissioner of Police, General Phiyega, has developed an integrated and multi-disciplinary collaborated process between the relevant SAPS Divisions, known as the Crime Detection Framework.

The Divisions are the HAWKS, the Detective Services and the Operational Response Service.

The DPCI/HAWKS is a champion division to root out this crime. You will know that, rhino killings have now become a very sophisticated and organized crime.

The organization, transport and smuggling/trafficking out of the rhino horns are done by a large, sophisticated organized crime syndicates.

Which, in-fact now include the so-called trusted wildlife industry professionals, swelling in the ranks of the poaching demographic.

That is why there is also now a dedicated Special Investigation Unit led by the SAPS Detective Services, which only focuses on Rhino poaching.

This Unit, which is located within the SAPS Cross-Border Unit, operates under the operational agreement between the Southern African Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPPCO) member states.

All operational members of this unit, which are made up of all detective heads of the member countries, are situated and operating at the borderlines, as per the Permanent Coordinating Sub-Committee of SARPPCO.

Most importantly, Speaker, we want to assure our people that the Police are not only focusing on rhino poaching at the borderlines. Police are there to prioritise all types of crimes happening within and at the edges of our ports of entry, to safeguard our nation.

The Cross-Border Unit is a broader operational strategy to focus on all “hot pursuits” as prioritized by the SAPS. For example, the Cross Border Unit also focuses on stock theft, motor vehicle theft, human trafficking, and other related cases.

Already, a rhino poacher was sentenced to 77 years imprisonment in the Nelspruit Magistrates Court, and this has been one of the heaviest penalties aimed at curbing this crime against our environment.

Such successful prosecutions are crystal clear indication that our police are working very hard long hours to ensure that justice is done.

Yes, we can still do more to crack on these heinous criminals, but there are no quick-fix solutions, because this crime is not only complex and very hard to police, it also poses a lot of challenges on issues of capacity, costs and community intelligence.

Therefore we need a more concerted integrated effort between all stakeholders and role-players mandated to curb this crime. Yes, the National Commissioner of Police is currently boosting the capacity of police personnel, particularly in crime-scene management, to combat rhino killings.

But this effort needs to be reciprocated by working closely with our communities that are closely located to rhino reserves/parks/farms in the different provinces.

We also need efficient and working bi-laterals with those countries that border our parks (Mozambique and Zimbabwe).

We are happy to know that our Government signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam in 2012, and with China in 2013, and still developing one with Thailand and Cambodia. These are all countries that have heightened interest in the rhino horns.

With the establishment of the NATJOINTS at the Kruger National Park, where it is still the centre of majority of poaching rhino horn in South Africa, it is the SAPS hope that there would be better communication and collaboration between Government Departments and to improve database systems sharing.

There are so many anti-poaching campaigns, and there could be now an over-flow duplication of effort.

What we need to do is to strengthen our already existing bi-laterals, ensure that the operational agreement between SAPS and SARPCOO is formalized to allow a speedier extradition application for cross-border criminals.

As the SAPS, we want to see memoranda of understanding (MoUs) that yield to meaningful and impactful action against these senseless killings of our wildlife, and our tourism.

And, we will ensure a sustainable crime combating effort to save our rhinos, our environment, and most importantly our people.

I thank you, Speaker.

Ms. Nomsa Hani
Head of Office & Spokesperson
Office of the Deputy Minister of Police

Tel: +27 12 3934469 / 21 4677023
Fax: +27 12 3934614 / 21 4614174

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