Cross border hot pursuit when chasing suspected criminals is no problem as long as it is the South African Police Service (SAPS) doing it.
Last week National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said poachers suspected of killing and dehorning rhino in the Kruger National Park could be followed across the Mozambique/South Africa border. This incensed opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow deputy minister of environment affairs, Terri Stander, who wanted to know “the nature of the agreement, if any, between Mozambique and South Africa allowing for hot pursuit operation”.
“The hot pursuit across borders referred to by General Phiyega is not only in respect of rhino poaching but other matters as well,” SAPS Head: Corporate Communication, Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale, told defenceWeb.
“The police have many cases of stock theft, motor vehicle theft, human trafficking and drugs as some examples of transnational crime. A special cross border unit of SAPS detectives deals with these matters.
“Over and above this a new unit, focussing only on rhino poaching, has recently been established.
“There is an operational agreement between SARPPCO (Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation) member countries that hot pursuit can take place if the need arises.
“At present operational members (of SAPS) in units situated on the border lines operate as agreed by the SARPPCO Permanent Co-ordinating Sub-committee which is made up of all the detective heads of member countries.”
Explaining hot pursuit as done by the police Makgale said: “Once suspects cross a border, we call our counterparts in the country the suspects crossed into to accompany us. Once arrested the suspects will be left in the country where the arrest was made while we await the outcome of an extradition application”.
Extradition is a worrying factor for Stander who said: “There is also concern that in the absence of an extradition treaty, any apprehended suspects will not be able to be brought back to South Africa for prosecution”.
Makgale anticipated “this matter” would come up for discussion next month when SARPCCO’s legal sub-committee meets in Lesotho.
South Africa, particularly its national conservation agency in the form of SANParks Commanding Officer Special Projects, retired General Johan Jooste, more than a year ago put forward hot pursuit as one of the options to be considered in combatting rhino poaching. His proposal was included in a SANParks report to Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa which formed part of documentation for a meeting between the Minister and her Mozambican counterpart. A series of meetings saw a memorandum of understanding pertaining to a number of conservation issues signed.
The hot pursuit option does not form part of the MOU as it currently stands but defenceWeb has been informed discussions between conservation and law enforcement officials from both countries are continuing.
The latest rhino kill statistics show 618 killed this year with the Kruger National Park accounting for the majority – 400.