Six Southern African Development Community (SADC) states who are “closely knit” have undertaken to co-operate to deal with the scourge of poaching, particularly that of rhinos and elephants.
The countries – Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe – met last month in Mpumalanga for the fourth multilateral meeting of defence and security chiefs on anti-poaching. During the meeting SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Solly Shoke, handed over chairmanship of the regional anti-poaching forum to Lieutenant General John Mutwa, Chief of the Namibian Defence Force.
An indication of the importance the regional bloc attaches to the protection of natural heritage in Southern Africa can be seen from the positions of those attending.
Both the South African and Namibian delegates brought the top soldiers in their respective countries and they were joined by the Deputy Commander of the Botswana Defence Force, Major General Gotsileene Morake; Mozambican defence attaché, Colonel Simon Zengeni; Zambia Deputy Army Commander, Major General Jackson Miti and Zimbabwe Defence Force Chief, General Philip Sibanda.
Addressing the meeting Shoke said they were “close knit member states” and had a need to collectively deal with poaching and poachers as part of finding a common long term solution to the problem.
South African Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa told the meeting it was aligned with the SADC on wildlife conservation and law enforcement as well as the regional bloc’s law enforcement and anti-poaching strategy.
“The SADC region is unique and rich with abundant wildlife. This makes it prone to daily threats of poaching. Therefore, collaboration and co-ordination of law enforcement efforts are the key to maintaining the ecological integrity of the region,” she said.
She went on to elaborate on transnational co-operation saying if properly facilitated with complementary partners it can 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.
Molewa added it was “imperative legal means be found to ensure the punishments meted out to convicted poachers in the region is standardised”.