Minister of environmental affairs Edna Molewa.

SKUKUZA – The minister of environmental affairs, Edna Molewa, wants an even closer alliance between defence and security forces and environmental protectors.

This was held at the KNP Protea Hotel from April 2 to 6.The event was organised by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to decide on and provide protection of SA borders in the fight against rhino poaching.

The aim was to deliberate on legal issues pertaining to anti-poaching efforts, as well as to discuss a means to ensure that the punishment meted out to those convicted of poaching in the region is standardised.

According to Brig Gen Mafi Mgobozi of SANDF Corporate Communications, it is a quest to ensure the people of South Africa are and feel safe, and the fight against rhino poaching is intensified.

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It was officially opened by Molewa on behalf of minister of defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who had to attend to other duties out of the country.

She referred to the SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement as well as the SADC Law Enforcement and Anti-Poaching (LEAP) Strategy and said it was time for the latter to be implemented.

“The illegal killing and trafficking of our wildlife undermines our investments in the protection and conservation of our natural heritage and for this reason the southern African countries have adopted the LEAP Strategy. This will boost efforts to combat poaching and trafficking in wildlife by introducing a common approach to combat the illicit transnational trade in wildlife.”

She said the effort defence and security chiefs went to to collaborate on wildlife crime and corruption within the region was appreciated.

“We need this collaboration and coordination which we believe is part of your core mandate, thus maintaining the integrity of our different countries.”

Poaching is no longer just a threat to the environment, but also a social, economic and security threat as well as transnational organised crime.

“The poorest of the poor are, more often than not, the ones who are being targeted and recruited by criminal syndicates which, in turn, destabilises the social structures of our communities, at the expense of our natural heritage,” she said.

A forum like this one was the ideal opportunity to share practices developed in the decade since rhino poaching started intensifying in the subregion.

The Integrated Strategic Management Approach accepted by cabinet is applied through a joint alliance within the security cluster comprising the ministries of defence and military veterans (chair), justice and correctional services, police, environmental affairs as well as state-owned entities like the State Security Agency, SARS, National Prosecuting Authority, SANParks and the provincial conservation and security authorities.

It aims to increase rhino numbers by sharing animals with other countries; strengthening law enforcement and anti-poaching capabilities; working with communities adjacent to national and provincial parks and broader awareness programmes; national, regional and international collaboration with a number of strategic partners and development and harmonisation of responsive legislative tools.

She mentioned that cooperation through the Transfrontier Conservation Areas Programme contributes to stability, peace and security and encourageS the forum to adopt its terms of multilateral cooperation on anti-poaching.
Training and intelligence should be exchanged and joint border patrols and operations to locate weapons be executed.

She concluded by suggesting a closer alliance between defence and security forces and environmental protectors.

“Cooperation with other complementary partners needs to be facilitated and enhanced. It should include the sharing of technology, training, joint operations and joint operational centres, information sharing and common communication systems.”

Lastly, the chief of the SANDF, Gen Solly Shoke, provided a keynote address on progress made and more measures to enhance actions already deployed at
the KNP.