South African Army soldiers deployed in the Kruger National Park (KNP) have arrested four Mozambican nationals. The Mozambican nationals were in possession of a hunting rifle, cell phones, binoculars and axe, the Department of Defence said in a statement.
The men are due to appear in court today in connection with illegal border crossing, attempted poaching and offences under firearms legislation. They were held at the Skukuza police station over the weekend, Brigadier General Marthie Visser said.
The state BuaNews agency reported late last month that some 165 South African Army soldiers had been deployed to patrol the international border between the Kruger National Park and Mozambique to re-establish state authority and combat poaching. “For the safety of our borderlines and the escalating rhino poaching incidents we have decided to add our troops and divide them so that others will help in the Kruger to [combat] rhino poaching and other cross-border related crimes,” said provincial SANDF commander Colonel Nceba Bobelo.
The troops are patrolling the border in the park, as well as in the Mbuzini and Komatipoort areas. The troops are working with the police, South African Revenue Service and other government departments involved in crime-combating operations.
South African National Parks (SANParks) chief executive David Mabunda has said that 71 rhinos have been killed at SANParks reserves since the beginning of this year, while 333 rhino deaths were recorded last year. He said the Army would help secure the border between South Africa and Mozambique, where poaching is rife. Bobelo said using soldiers to secure borders had proven effective. “Since the initial deployment of the soldiers our border lines seem to be safer than before. We believe that the crimes, including the smuggling of vehicles and live stock, have decreased,” said Bobelo.
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu separately said the military had”declared war” on poachers. The SANDF had been asked by SANParks to play a strategic role in the protection of South African national parks including the KNP. “We congratulate the SANDF members for arresting poachers. It has been 15 days since they deployed into the Park and we can see the results already. We will continue to work with the law enforcement agencies to secure our borders and to deal with rhino poaching”, said Sisulu.
“Our national parks are our assets, we will protect them for the future and those who pose any threats to our animals will meet the full might of the law. We have declared war with poachers in all our parks,” added the minister.
The SANDF is currently deployed along stretches of the Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho borders At the end of the financial year 2012/13 the SANDF hopes to patrol the entire 4471 kilometres frontier between South Africa and Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Lesotho.