With Parliament setting aside three hours tomorrow for a debate on rhino poaching and its impact on national heritage, the timing of a letter seeking Ministerial approval for “calculated hot pursuit” could not have been better.
The letter, penned by Randburg lawyer Christopher Bean, asks Environment Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, to “extend the principle of hot pursuit to include capture and arrest of known poachers and middlemen residing in Mozambique”.
The use of hot pursuit as a deterrent to particularly rhino poachers operating in the Kruger National Park first came up a year ago when retired Army General Johan Jooste suggested it to SANParks management. Indications are it was discussed when a South African Department of Environmental Affairs delegation met their Mozambican counterparts for discussions on a conservation memorandum of understanding. This included counter-poaching.
At the time of the MOU signing it was said hot pursuit was not yet part of the agreement but there would be further discussions.
Last month National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega told a media briefing hot pursuit was happening.
“Yes, we have a hot pursuit agreement meaning that when somebody crosses the border we do have an agreement with Mozambique to follow through,” she was quoted as saying.
This was subsequently expanded on by police spokesman, Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale, in response to a defenceWeb enquiry. He said hot pursuit was not confined to suspected rhino poachers but also to suspects of crimes such as stock and vehicle theft as well as drug and human trafficking.
The hot pursuit option was in accordance with a Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPCCO) operational agreement.
He declined to provide details of specific rhino poaching hot pursuit incidents as did Jooste, who referred defenceWeb to the SA Police Service.
This public has to date had no response from the Department of Environment Affairs on its question as to whether it was aware of any SADC agreement regarding hot pursuit ahead of discussions with Mozambique on the conservation MOU.
One who is unhappy about the hot pursuit issue is Democratic Alliance shadow deputy environment minister Terri Stander. She questions its legality and extradition issues and will raise these points in Tuesday’s debate.
As far as legality is concerned Bean maintains “calculated hot pursuit” is in use worldwide and can be used to back rangers and soldiers crossing into Mozambique “armed with information/evidence as to the existence of known poachers and middlemen financing them”.
He terms it “a means of remedying a wrong committed on South African soil without having to go to war to rectify that wrong. In short, hot pursuit is a form of safety valve against war,” he states in his letter to Minister Molewa.
Environment Affairs has not yet issued a monthly update on rhino poaching statistics with the last information released on July 31. That indicated 618 rhinos killed national with Kruger accounting for by far the majority – 400.