By Arthi Sanpath
Mansions are springing up in the poverty-stricken villages lying along the border of South Africa and Mozambique. With air-conditioning and modern finishes, they lie in the midst of villagers who often have no access to water. Cars stolen from South Africa whizz by, sometimes driven by boys as young as 16. There’s music, women, drinking.
It’s the rhino war zone – villages that lie along the border between South Africa and Mozambique where warlords rule with impunity and young villagers are lured into poaching by wads of cash.
“Picture a local rhino warlord, who just had millions of meticai, the currency in Mozambique, deposited into his account because of a successful poaching effort, slaughters several cattle to celebrate his windfall and gives the people in the village food to eat, and at the celebration are guards and supposed anti-poaching teams,” said Kingsley Holgate, explorer and humanitarian, recalling what he had seen in his latest expedition, the Izintaba Zobombo Expedition.
The expedition is at the tail end of its three-month journey, and it took Holgate and his team along southern Africa’s Lebombo Mountain Range from near Punda Maria in the north of the Kruger National Park to the historic Ghost Mountain Inn in Mkuze, northern KZN.
The expedition covered South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland, and the team met villagers, and spoke to community leaders and conservationists – people at the coalface of the rhino poaching epidemic.
The expedition is backed by Project Rhino KZN, an association of organisations working towards combating rhino poaching, by combining resources and campaigns. Soccer games, school visits, cyclists, art competitions and plays have all been part of the expedition’s activities to engage the communities about rhino poaching. More....