The arrest of two Kruger National Park field rangers in connection with fraud, money laundering and corruption by the SA Police Service (SAPS) specialist unit the Hawks earns a nod of appreciation from the Freedom Front Plus (FF+).
At the same time the Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal points out the provincial conservation agency is – two years on – “considering” proposals it submitted to curb rhino poaching in the province.
The Kruger arrests have, to date, resulted in a first court appearance of David Chikwa Maluleke and Solly Ubisi in the Bushbuckridge Magistrate’s Court.
FF+ Mpumalanga provincial legislature member Werner Weber said the arrests, apparently in connection with provision of information about rhino, ranger and anti-poaching operation locations, was welcome.
“It seems to be the tip of an iceberg,” he said referring to the investigation involving the Hawks, officially the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), and SANParks’ specialist Skukuza-based Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit.
“Operation Blood Orange, with all three units involved, is ongoing and more arrests are expected.”
Kruger Managing Executive Gareth Coleman as much as confirmed this, saying the arrests are part of an ongoing external investigation.
In KwaZulu-Natal, where provincial conservation agency Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is increasingly under fire from the DA, questions to the provincial legislature show “a host of crime fighting and anti-poaching techniques, repeatedly reiterated and ignored” will now be considered.
This is going to happen after what DA MPL Heinz de Boer termed “more than two years of ongoing slaughter” of rhino in the province, the white rhino was brought back from the brink of extinction.
“Official records show between 1 January and 25 March this year 61 rhino were poached from Ezemvelo parks and reserves. Unofficially the figure is close to 80,” he said.
Among “belated” proposals to be considered by Ezemvelo management and the provincial legislature are increasing ranger capacity, involving crime intelligence and other law enforcement as well as reviving provincial priority crime structures with an eye to better intelligence.