Police commissioner General Riah Phiyega says the increase in the number of arrests and convictions for rhino poaching is “heartening”.
Addressing a conference in Pretoria on Sunday‚ Phiyega said between January and April this year 64 people had been arrested for poaching inside the Kruger National Park and 66 others outside the park.
“During the same four month period‚ we recovered 16 firearms‚ 99 rounds of ammunition‚ 9 vehicles‚ 13 rhino horns and 27 axes and knives‚” she said.
Between July and December 2014‚ 53 firearms‚ 228 rounds of ammunition‚ nine vehicles‚ 20 rhino horns and 42 axes and knives were recovered.
“The increase in the number of arrests is due to not only the excellent work being done by field rangers‚ but also the cooperation of the police and SA National Defence Force‚” the police commissioner said.
A total of 701 dockets had been opened and these cases were presently under investigation.
“In recent months‚ detectives have been instrumental in securing 8 convictions – and have attended to 692 crime scenes.
“We executed at least three operations per week‚ and concluded 46 intelligence-driven operations since July last year.
“In addition‚ police canine support teams are situated at four gates in the Intensive Protection Zone. These officials conservatively search 40 vehicles per day‚ per team‚” Phiyega said.
As part of this heightened focus‚ three senior Hawks members had also been involved in strategic interventions since January‚ partaking in 36 investigations‚ follow-up and intelligence operations‚ as well as 26 disruptive operations.
“…we take the fight against rhino poaching very seriously. We even arrest our own. Early this year‚ an undercover operation was held by Durban Organised Crime‚ Special Task Force‚ Crime Intelligence and Nyathi Anti-Poaching Unit at Mkhuze area‚ after they received information a certain Warrant Officer Christopher Gumbi was involved in corruption activities in the area.
“The members followed him and he was arrested. Two horns were recovered. Warrant Officer Gumbi‚ from Jozini Crime Intelligence‚ was charged for armed robbery‚ possession of horn and defeating the ends of justice. He has appeared in court and the case was remanded until 30 June 2015.”
Recently‚ in an operation led by Crime Intelligence and the Hawks‚ information had been received that a rhino horn was going to be sold to people in Pretoria.
“We followed up the information which led to the arrest of a Crime Intelligence official from Roodepoort‚ together with a member of the public‚ were arrested. Their matter is also in court‚ where they will appear soon‚” Phiyega added.