Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana has enlisted the assistance of his Cabinet colleague tasked with overseeing environmental matters in efforts to curb abalone poaching.
Speaking at a weekend media conference Zokwana said he was “concerned about the scale with which abalone poaching is rising with sophisticated foreign syndicates in play”.
His concern extended to confiscated abalone stolen from departmental stores saying some officials were arrested for stealing abalone and “working with the syndicates”.
“We are dealing with syndicates with deep pockets who bribe their way through,” he said, adding among measures he was looking at instituting was the appointment of service providers to ensure recovered abalone was given to fishing communities and co-operatives. This would enable them to generate revenue rather than have the valuable resource locked up in government stores.
“I have also engaged with the Minister of Environmental Affairs (Edna Molewa) to experience first-hand how rhino poaching is being dealt with. This will improve our efforts to protect endangered abalone and the poaching of both east and west coast rock lobster,” he said.
Speaking during her budget vote in Parliament in May, Molewa indicated she was “cautiously optimistic the tide is being turned on the scourge of rhino poaching”.
She told the National Assembly the number of rhinos poached last year was down to 1 028 from 1 054 the previous year which she attributed to “multi-facetted interventions”.
Amongst others this approach has seen SA Army soldiers working alongside SANParks rangers in the Kruger National Park to arrest 10 suspected poachers. Other agencies involved in multi-facetted interventions are the SA Police Service, SA Revenue Service and the national departments of Justice and State Security.
Another indication of the contribution made by soldiers deployed in Kruger to the national anti-poaching effort came in a ministerial reply to a Parliamentary question. Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said soldiers were involved in the apprehension or killing of 188 suspected poachers in the internationally renowned game reserve since 2010. The Kruger deployment is primarily a border protection one in terms of Operation Corona with soldiers from the Sand River base regularly working with rangers and other law enforcement agencies to protect rhinos and other animal species from poachers.
The maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in 2015 responded to a Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) call for help with anti-poaching operations as part of its monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) branch.
A small mobile maritime force, utilising elements of the SA Navy’s Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS), was deployed to help stop poaching of marine resources in the Gansbaai area of Western Cape.