By Richard Compton
Durban - 42 fishing craft and almost 5kms of gillnets were confiscated and destroyed in a massive, joint raid by the SAPS and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife at False Bay this week.
The operation was carried out by a 45-strong force including two helicopters and a fleet of 13 vehicles that descended on the shores of False Bay. The purpose was to stop the local people in the Nkunduze area on the southern boundary of False Bay from practising commercial gillnetting activities and providing a ferrying point for rhino poachers to cross over onto the eastern shores of Lake St Lucia.
This was the third such raid in as many months and signalled the formation of a new state -supported body to combat Rhino and related poaching criminals and syndicates in KZN.
Cedric Coetzee, Ezemvelo's Manager: Rhino Security KZN, said the operations signified the recent establishment of a 'Priority Crime Combating' forum where Rhino poaching has now been elevated to the status of a transnational crime, such as smuggling, human trafficking, Cash-In-Transit etc.
“Frankly, it is a critical development. This 'Priority Crime' status has injected an entirely new capability into our efforts.”
The SAPS, including members of its Provincial Tracking Team, Operational Response Services and Detective Services, has combined these capabilities with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and its aerial Zap Wing unit in targeting specific criminals and their practices.
“It's an expression of a new governmental willingness to combat rhino and other types of poaching as well as the illegal possession of firearms, wildlife parts and the like.
The two previous raids were conducted in the Northern KZN region, extending from Ndumo Game Reserve in the far north down to the towns of Manguzi, Jozini and most recently Lake St Lucia. These resulted in the arrest of two traditional healers, two suspected rhino poachers, illegal rifles, revolvers and shotguns and wide variety of animal skins.
“This is just the start. These operations will become even more effective as both our and the SAPS's intelligence improves”.
Ezemvelo's CEO Dr Bandile Mkhize said law enforcement and community upliftment were sometimes tense bedfellows.
“No sustainable practice of conservation can be achieved if under our noses people flout the law and blatantly abuse our natural resources for illegal gain.”
Referring to the False Bay raid, Dr Mkhize said locals had repeatedly been warned of the illegality of gillnetting and using these craft.
“Conservation has tried to implement a sustainable fishing policy to cater for people's subsistence needs back in the 1980's and 90's. Three communities were granted permits to catch fish on a sustainable manner. These have been repeatedly ignored as the number of craft and gillnets ballooned and the 'industry' grew into a major commercial enterprise.”