Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, opens the 4th Multi-Lateral Meeting of the Defence and Security Chiefs on Anti-Poaching
Chief of the South African National Defence Force, General Shoke
Chief of the Namibian Defence Force, Lieutenant General Mutwa,
Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Sibanda,
Deputy Commander of the Botswana Defence Force, Major General Morake,
Deputy Army Commander of Zambia, Major General Miti,
Chief of Defence Intelligence in Mozambique, Brigadier General Mitama,
Senior Defence and Security officials,
Senior representatives of Government departments,
Heads of National Parks and Wildlife Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I bring you greetings from the Honourable Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who is unable to be here today at a sad moment in South Africa after we have lost the mother of our Nation, the African child of the soil, Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela, may her soul rest in peace.
I must say our extensive interaction with our own security cluster chaired by our Minister for Defence, makes me feel quite at home amongst such an esteemed gathering of Chiefs of Defence and other Defence officials.
We trust that most of you will have had the opportunity to visit our gem in nature conservation – the Kruger National Park – since your arrival for this 4th Multi-lateral Forum of the Defence and Security Chiefs on Anti-Poaching.
We are informed that one of the main purposes of this meeting is to not only deliberate on legal issues pertaining to Anti-Poaching efforts, but also to discuss a means to ensure that the punishment meted out to those convicted of poaching in our region is standardised.
The forum that is meeting here today is informed and aligned to both the SADC Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement as well as the SADC Law Enforcement and Anti-Poaching LEAP Strategy. These tools are central to comprehensive anti-poaching efforts in our sub-region, promotion of the sustainable use of wildlife; enforcement of wildlife laws within, between and among State Parties; the promotion of the conservation of shared wildlife resources, and the facilitation of community based natural resources management practices for management of wildlife resources.
Our continent is home to most of the world’s surviving species of wild animals and plants. The region’s biodiversity and ecosystems play an important role in meeting the developmental objectives of our region. The SADC region, in particular, is unique and rich, with an abundance of wildlife. This makes us prone to daily threats of poaching. But while we are faced with similar challenges, we also have similar opportunities to tackle this threat.
The illegal killing and trafficking of our wildlife undermines our investments in the protection and conservation of our natural heritage. It is for this reason we, as the Southern African countries, have, after much deliberation, adopted the SADC Law Enforcement and Anti-poaching Strategy (known as the LEAP Strategy), which now needs to be implemented. This strategy will boost efforts to combat poaching and trafficking in wildlife by introducing a common approach to combat the illicit transnational trade in wildlife.
It is a well-known fact that our sub-region is home to the biggest elephant and rhino populations left on the Planet. This is in addition to all the other terrestrial and marine fauna and flora species which are conserved and sustainably used in our countries. We are mindful and respectful of the role you, our Defence and Security Chiefs, play to create and maintain stability on our continent. We thus appreciate the time taken, and effort being made, to collaborate on wildlife crime and corruption within the region. We need this collaboration and co-ordination which we believe is part of your core mandate, thus maintaining the integrity of our different countries.
The abundance of our natural assets unfortunately implies risk, and a threat to these species, our people and the environment in general, as unscrupulous groups illegally kill and traffic in species for financial gain. This is all due to the escalating demand for the parts and derivatives of the animals and plants that are used for a variety of purposes. It is therefore true that this is no longer just a threat to the environment, but also a social, economic and security threat as well as a transnational organised crime. We are not naïve to the fact that defending and protecting these species is a full-time and very expensive undertaking.
It is unfortunate that the poorest of the poor are more often than not, the ones that are being targeted and recruited by the criminal syndicates which, in turn, destabilises the social structures of our communities, at the expense of our natural heritage.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In order to address wildlife trafficking, our governments have diversified and expanded their capabilities to meet the escalating threat and as such diverted allocations from much needed resources for other socio-economic imperatives.
It has been almost a decade since rhino poaching started intensifying and increasing in the sub-region. Through our efforts to combat the scourge, we have learnt lessons and have developed best practices that we can share with each other. A forum like this one therefore serves as the ideal opportunity to do just that.
As rhino poaching escalated, South Africa had to adapt and enter into a number of collaborative agreements to ensure our wildlife is protected and properly managed.
The South African government at a Cabinet level, approved an Integrated Strategic Management Approach for the protection and management of rhino in the country. This approach is implemented through a joint collaboration within the Security Cluster comprising the Ministries of Defence and Military Veterans (Chair), Justice and Correctional Services, Police, Environmental Affairs as well as state owned entities, such as the State Security Agency, South African Revenue Service, National Prosecuting Authority, SANParks and the provincial conservation and security authorities.
The Integrated Approach comprises specific interventions aimed at:
- increasing rhino numbers by expanding the range which also involves sharing animals with other range countries;
- strengthening law enforcement and anti-poaching capabilities;
- working with communities adjacent to national and provincial parks and broader awareness programmes;
- national, regional and international collaboration with a number of strategic partners;
- development and harmonisation of responsive legislative tools. South Africa has entrenched environmental rights (including the protection and sustainable use of wildlife) in its Constitution.
These have delivered a number of significantly satisfying results – most significantly, an established downward trend in the number of rhino poached in South Africa since 2016. It is an approach that is now being utilised to curb elephant poaching in the Kruger National Park.
This approach has resulted in poachers not only being arrested, but also being successfully prosecuted and receiving harsh sentences
We have also seen the importance of concluding environment and conservation MOUs with a number of countries in the region as well as those countries considered as transit and consumer countries. Furthermore, our co-operation through the Transfrontier Conservation Areas Programme not only affirms our common heritage but contributes to stability, peace and security.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We would therefore like to encourage this forum to adopt its Terms of Reference for the multi-lateral co-operation on anti-poaching which you have indicated will provide guidance and a framework on the:
- Enhancement of judicial legislation process and harmonization there of
- Minimization of illegal wildlife trafficking
- Improvement and strengthening of field protection
- Provision of resources for combatting illegal wildlife trafficking
- Exchange of training and intelligence
- Cross border challenges and co-operation
- Joint border patrols
- Joint operations to locate weapons
- Domestication of SADC law enforcement and anti-poaching strategy
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We trust that we can forge an even closer alliance between our defence and security forces and our environmental protectors.
Cooperation with other complementary partners needs to be facilitated and enhanced as this could serve as the basis for general cross-border cooperation, including the sharing of technology, training, joint operations and joint operational centres, information sharing and common communication systems.
It is our fervent hope that this meeting will result in developing, not only mechanisms for the implementation of the LEAP strategy, but also ensure the translation of the Terms of Reference into tangible action, most importantly the establishment of a common legal framework and responsive legislation for member States in dealing with poaching.
We wish all participants a wonderful stay in our beautiful country. May this meeting result in decisions and outcomes that will have positive results in fighting the illegal killing and subsequent trafficking in wildlife in our region.