High-level SADC anti-poaching meeting underway in Mpumalanga


South Africa’s Environmental Affairs Minister, Dr Edna Molewa, on 4 April opened the Southern African Development Community (SADC) multilateral defence and security chiefs’ anti-poaching meeting in Mpumalanga – the fourth of its kind.

The first meeting of at least some of the bloc’s defence and service chiefs to talk anti- and counter-poaching was held in Botswana in 2014. Subsequent meetings were held in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

This year’s meeting on the outskirts of the Kruger National Park is attended by defence and service chiefs from the Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe defence forces, as well as senior officials from the departments of Police, Justice, Environmental Affairs and Intelligence, the Environmental Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Solly Shoke, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address. According to an SANDF statement issued by Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi of SANDF Corporate Communications: “In its quest to ensure the people of South Africa are and feel safe, the SANDF has heeded a clarion call to provide ironclad protection on the country’s borders in the fight against rhino poaching”.

It goes on to say “against this background Shoke will provide a keynote address on the significant strides made and other measures that can be used as a force multiplier to elements already deployed at the Kruger National Park”.

A programme for the event lists South Africa’s top soldier as giving the opening remarks for the meeting followed by an official opening to be performed by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who currently finds herself in Moscow attending the Seventh Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS). She has been replaced by her environmental affairs colleague in Cabinet.

Presentations will be made by SANParks as regards current trends, challenges and crime statistics with two SANDF presentations following. These will be done by CLogistics and the SA Navy and will cover environmental matters, current maritime trends and challenges as well as crime statistics, presumably for poaching and illegal harvesting of resources including abalone. No names of presenters are given in the programme.

Environmental Affairs notes in its statement that part of the agenda for the Mpumalanga meeting is “to deliberate on legal issues pertaining to poaching”.

During previous anti-poaching multilateral meetings it was noted punishment for convicted poachers differed from country to country in SADC. “This needs to be standardised,” the statement adds.

The SANDF assists in combating poaching through its activities in the Kruger National Park, where it supports rangers, and through its border protection duties under Operation Corona.