The hot pursuit system currently in use by the SA Police Service appears to be more of a “gentlemen’s agreement” than anything else, Democratic Alliance shadow deputy environmental affairs minister Terri Stander maintains following a parliamentary committee meeting on Tuesday.
“It appears a gentlemen’s agreement, a kind of verbal agreement, exists among SADC (Southern African Development Community) members that when suspects cross borders contact first has to be made with law enforcement across the border to get an escort to conduct their pursuit or investigation. There have been calls for formalisation of this and it has apparently been escalated to a SADC sub-committee. Such a formal agreement will outline the protocols for cross border operations,” she told defenceWeb.
Formalisation of the current arrangement could be read into the response of Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale, head of SA Police Service (SAPS) corporate communication, to a defenceWeb enquiry about hot pursuit of rhino poaching suspects.
“It is anticipated the legal sub-committee of SARPCCO (Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation) will discuss this matter during the meeting scheduled to take place next month (September) in Lesotho in order to come up with formal agreement,” he said.
Stander is adamant it is “irresponsible” to refer to a gentleman’s agreement on cross border crime combatting as a hot pursuit agreement.
“True hot pursuit would need a formal, clearly defined written agreement to prevent misinterpretation as insurgency and the potential to lead to war. The alternative also holds good: that true insurgency cannot be veiled as hot pursuit.
“As I see it the current activities cannot be deemed hot pursuit and it is misleading for the National Police Commissioner (Riah Phiyega) to allege so. Perhaps cross-border co-operation is taking place regularly, but it cannot be classified as hot pursuit,” she said.
Stander wants a formal hot pursuit agreement and extradition treaty between Mozambique and South Africa “negotiated by the SADC legal sub-committee or bilaterally between the two countries”.
“This will not form part of any memorandum of understanding as it is said (by Environment Affairs director general Nosipho Ngcaba) this is ‘by nature a high level, non-specific agreement’ and does not deal with such matters (extradition) under the ambit of co-operation in conservation.”
Makgale said there were “no statistics” available on hot pursuit or cross-border operations targeting suspected rhino poachers because such incidents took place “on a day to day basis as the need arises”.
The newest Department of Environment Affairs statistics show 69 arrests have been made in connection with rhino poaching in Kruger this year. Nationally police, SANParks rangers and SA Army soldiers had arrested 172 suspects by the end of July, seven more than in the 12 months of 2010.
An indication of the seriousness of the rhino poaching problem, particularly in South Africa’s internationally renowned Kruger National Park, comes from retired army general Johan Jooste. The retired soldier with 35 years in uniform to his name and now Commanding Officer: Special Projects for SANParks is on record as saying “we are fighting a war”.
He told Travel 24’s Scott Ramsay: “Mozambicans are making regular armed incursions into South Africa, our sovereign country, plundering our resources and leaving. To me that’s an act of war”.