There appears to be a difference between serious and priority crimes judging from statistics made public last week by Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko and the National Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega.
Speaking at the release of the latest crime statistics in Pretoria Phiyega said 20 serious crimes were measured in compiling the statistics. These include murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault with intention to do grievous bodily harm and robbery.
All the statistics released cover crimes against people and, while sympathising with victims, DA shadow deputy environment affairs minister Terri Stander has pointedly asked why no information at all about rhino poaching was released by the country’s top cop.
Her query comes at a time when she awaits answers to Parliamentary questions from the departments of Defence and Environment Affairs on hot pursuit actions taken against people suspected of poaching rhino in particularly the Kruger National Park. This issue was raised by Phiyega during a media briefing on strategic management of rhino in South Africa in August. The briefing was hosted by Environment Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa.
The National Police Commissioner said: “We have a hot pursuit agreement meaning that when somebody crosses the border we do have an agreement with Mozambique to follow through”.
Expanding SA Police Service spokesman, Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale, said the hot pursuit option was not confined to suspected rhino poachers and included stock and vehicle theft suspects as well as those thought to be involved with drug and human trafficking. Hot pursuit was undertaken in accordance with an operational agreement set up by the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPCCO), a Southern African Development Community (SADC) body.
“If in fact rhino poaching is a priority crime why aren’t statistics on it released along with the national crime statistics?” Stander asked.
In March last year Molewa confirmed rhino poaching had been elevated to a priority crime ahead of the 16th Conference on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Thailand.
The police have set up a dedicated team of detectives in the Kruger National Park to work with park rangers and other agencies and government departments, including the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), to concentrate on rhino poaching operations. This adds impetus to the priority crime rating this particularly form of poaching has been given.
The newest rhino kill statistics show South Africa had lost 769 of this Big Five species by the second Friday of this month. This equates to more than three rhino a day being shot by poachers.