SANDF deploys to Western Cape to fight poaching

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The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has deployed to the Overstand region of the Western Cape to combat the poaching of abalone and rock lobster, amongst other illegal activity.

South African Air Force and Navy elements have been deployed along the Cape coast from Lamberts Bay to Cape Infanta under Joint Tactical Headquarters Western Cape, the SANDF said. The deployment falls under the maritime protection Operation Corona.

According to Chief Petty Officer Nkululeko Zulu from Joint Tactical Headquarters Western Cape, South Africa’s coastline is of strategic importance to the country, both as an economic area and a sea trade route. In the Western Cape’s west and southern coasts due to the large number of vessels that transverse the South African waters annually, this is an area that requires focused inter-departmental attention.

Ahead of the SANDF’s deployment late last month, Mission Readiness Training was held at Simon’s Berg Cinema Hall on 21 February, during which various speakers covered operational topics such as Operational Law, Operational Discipline, Communication and Media Awareness, Logistics Matters and Operational Orders.

On 24 February the Executive Mayor of the Overstrand, Annelie Rabie, visited SANDF members deployed in the area of Hermanus and used the opportunity to officially welcome the SA National Defence Force. “Poaching remains a huge and serious problem in the Overstrand,” she said. “Hopefully your combined efforts with the law enforcement can yield tangible success. I wish you luck on this journey and the people of Overstrand welcome you.”

Rabie welcomed Lieutenant Colonel Adriaan Lotriet, SANDF staff officer for operations, and expressed appreciation that an operation to ensure that illegal harvesting of marine resource does not continue unabated, would be put into effect.

Members of the Maritime Reaction Squadron deployed to the Overstrand provided assistance to the community after a fire broke out in the Overhills informal settlement near Kleinmond in the early hours of 27 February.

An estimated 64 structures burnt down and one injury requiring medical attention was reported. The Overstrand Fire and Disaster Management committee was established to aid the victims of this disaster. Maritime Reaction Squadron members were requested to lend a hand and 12-man team based in Onrus under the leadership of Petty Officer R Klein and members of the Joint Operation Centre (JOC) were deployed on the ground to assist the community.

The SANDF regularly deploys to the Western Cape to combat poaching. For example, a November 2020 operation netted several suspects and abalone worth more than R5 million. Two boats and two vehicles were also confiscated. Also in November/December, a number of suspects from the Overberg were also arrested during a similar operation near Robben Island. Another suspect was apprehended by members of the Saldanha Sea Border Patrol unit after a high-speed chase on the ocean.