South African Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa wants to see the Southern African Development Community (SADC) expand its conservation and anti-poaching efforts to the point where there will be, among others, joint border patrols and joint operations to locate and arrest poachers and confiscate their weapons.
She told the SADC multilateral defence and security chiefs’ anti-poaching meeting currently underway in Mpumalanga she wanted “an even closer alliance forged” between SADC defence and security forces and the regional bloc’s environmental protectors.
“Co-operation with other partners needs to be facilitated and enhanced as this could serve as the basis for general cross-border co-operation. This would include sharing technology, training, joint operations and joint operational centres, information sharing and common communication systems.”
The multilateral meeting is hosted by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and Minister Molewa performed the official opening in place of Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. The defence minister is attending an international security conference in Moscow.
Present at the meeting are defence and service chiefs from Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as host country, South Africa. Senior officials from the South African departments of Police, Justice, Environmental Affairs and Intelligence are also attending, according to a statement issued by the Department of Environmental Affairs.
They were told by Minister Molewa that, as SADC members, their countries are aligned to the regional organisation’s protocol on wildlife conservation and law enforcement as well as its LEAP (law enforcement and anti-poaching) strategy.
“These tools,” she said “are central to comprehensive anti-poaching efforts in our sub-region, promotion of sustainable use of wildlife; enforcement of wildlife laws in, between and among State Parties; promotion of conservation of shared wildlife resources and facilitation of community-based natural resource management practices for management of wildlife resources”.
She also told the meeting illegal killing and trafficking of Africa’s wildlife was undermining the continent’s investment in the protection and conservation of its natural heritage.
This was the thinking behind the creation and adoption of LEAP which Molewa said “now needs to be implemented”.
She sees the strategy as boosting efforts to combat wildlife poaching and trafficking by introducing a common approach to combat the illicit transnational wildlife trade.
Molewa said the governments of SADC countries were forced to expand and diversify capabilities to meet the escalating threat posed by wildlife poaching and traffickers.
“This has seen allocations diverted from socio-economic imperatives.”
In South Africa a Cabinet approved integrated strategic management approach with specific interventions has contributed to a downward trend in rhino poaching as well as seeing more poaching suspects arrested, prosecuted being given “harsh sentences”.