By Siyabonga Mkhwanazi
Durban - The Hawks have entered the fight against rhino poaching.
The unit’s acting head, General Berning Ntlemeza, told Parliament on Wednesday he had sent a team of investigators to the Kruger National Park to break the backs of syndicates and their kingpins.
Ntlemeza told members of the portfolio committee on police he decided last week to send his team to Mpumalanga to join the war on poaching.
South Africa has seen the unprecedented killing of rhino, rising from 83 in 2008 to a staggering 1 215 last year, and the numbers continue to grow.
It has left the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, contemplating whether to sell the country’s rhino horn stockpile, worth in the region of R15 billion, to curb the problem.
Molewa is to make a decision next year, before the Cites conference on endangered species.
The police and the Hawks were briefing the portfolio committee on measures to curb rhino poaching.
The police said in the long term the unit would be sent to KwaZulu-Natal and North West.
The briefing followed an oversight visit by the portfolio committee last week when it identified a number of areas that needed to be fixed.
The committee called for more co-operation between the Hawks and police crime intelligence.
The police said they had brought in the National Intervention Unit to operate in the Kruger National Park.
This unit is less than two years old and specialises in certain categories of crime, including cash-in-transit heists.
Ntlemeza said he confirmed the revelation by the head of detectives in the police, Lieutenant-General Vinesh Moonoo, that the Hawks were now part of the intervention team in the fight against rhino poaching and they were going after the kingpins.
“I hope we will get more results,” said Ntlemeza, adding: “I took a decision last week to send dedicated members to attend to the issue of the park.”
Moonoo said they set up a task team to deal with this problem.
“In the establishment of the task team we did not think at that stage the problem would be so great,” he told MPs.
They had been successful in responding to the incidents of rhino poaching, but now they wanted to be proactive.
Next month they would do an audit to establish what further resources they would require in the park.
The divisional commissioner for operational response services, Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela, said there was initially a lack of co-ordination among intelligence structures.
Police crime intelligence, defence intelligence and the State Security Agency had been working separately.
But that had now been resolved as intelligence operatives would work under one roof.
Intelligence was important in the capture of kingpins behind the poaching scourge.
Mawela said the police were also part of the team set up last week. This included various experts in different fields.
“We are sitting together at one table to come up with one plan on how we are going to disrupt rhino poaching.”