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Open letter to the minister of defence

28 June 2013, 10:40

OPEN LETTER TO THE HONOURABLE
MINISTER OF DEFENCE AND MILITARY VETERANS

Ms Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula

Dear Minister

The problem facing the Republic of South Africa regarding the wanton poaching of our Rhino and other species of animal has now reached epidemic proportions, with 446 rhino recorded as already having been poached, this year, alone. 

Apart from the tragedy and suffering that this signifies for our rhino this has become a national security tragedy for the country in that armed foreigners protected by armed foreign gunmen are crossing our borders, especially into the Kruger National park with the aim of poaching rhino for their horn, but also with the intent to defend what is not theirs, if necessary, by taking the lives of our park rangers and soldiers! In any country this would be considered a very serious national security issue and constitutes nothing less than an armed foreign incursion and in some instances a declaration of war. 

Whilst the Republic spends hundreds of millions of rand every year in peacekeeping efforts on the continent, a low scale war is being waged on our own border almost without answer except for the approximately 150 military personnel deployed to the Kruger National Park to protect more than 350km of border. In a normal 3 watch system this means that a mere 50 military personnel can be on duty at any one time. So we have a situation where there is 1 man available for about every 7 kilometres of border, at any one time. We are clearly not taking this very serious threat to our national security, in which our soldiers and park rangers are threatened daily as seriously as we should be.

Present conventional wisdom, as reported in the press, purports that the proceeds of rhino poaching (and probably the poaching of other animals) are being channelled to RENAMO in Mozambique. It is widely accepted that RENAMO is a destabilising force in Mozambique and that it is quite willing to revert to acts of terrorism in order to de-stabilise the government of Mozambique. Thus, our inaction against poachers (armed foreigners operating with military force including helicopters, night vision equipment and high calibre assault rifles), is indirectly supporting instability, not only in our region, but right here on our doorstep. 

Minster, the time has come to take this threat to our national security and to the national security of our neighbours, very seriously. This low scale war on our national borders between the Kruger National Park and our neighbouring countries is a war which we cannot afford to lose. Your legacy as the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans and that of the Government of South Africa is dependent on winning this war, more so than it is on our peacekeeping efforts in far flung places on the Continent such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo or the Central African Republic. This is not a war against our neighbouring countries; this is a war against their destabilising forces! 

We need more troops in the Kruger National Park, authority for our troops and rangers to pursue poachers into our neighbouring countries (in our neighbouring countries’ own interests) and a properly built and patrolled fence along our border. We must also make use of the latest technologies for detecting transgressions of our border and must have a complete rethink of the Trans Frontier National Park, which has merely turned out to be an excellent mechanism for transferring our game to areas where it can be slaughtered at will, with no commensurate benefit to our national security or the state coffers! 

Minister, National Security is everyone’s concern and responsibility, the job of protecting it, in this case, is yours!

Yours faithfully

A Thomson 
Director
OSCAP

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