(Source – defenceWeb – Africa’s leading defence news portal)

Six SADC states, namely the close-knit countries of Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe have undertaken to co-operate in order to deal with the poaching scourge, particularly that of rhinos and elephants.

The countries met last month in Mpumalanga for the fourth multilateral meeting of defence and security chiefs on counter-poaching. This is a major break-through and an important milestone for conservation of the participating SADC countries. An indication of the importance the regional bloc attaches to the protection of natural heritage in Southern Africa, was seen from the positions of those attending.

Both the South African and Namibian delegates brought the top soldiers in their respective countries and they were joined by the Deputy Commander of the Botswana Defence Force, Major General Gotsileene Morake; Mozambican defence attaché, Colonel Simon Zengeni; Zambia Deputy Army Commander, Major General Jackson Miti and Zimbabwe Defence Force Chief, General Philip Sibanda.

During the meeting SA National Defence Force(SANDF)Chief, General Solly Shoke, handed over chairmanship of the regional anti-poaching forum to Lieutenant General John Mutwa, Chief of the Namibian Defence Force.

Addressing the meeting General Shoke said they were“closeknit member states” and had a need to collectively deal with poaching and poachers as part of finding a common long-term solution to the problem. South African Environmental Affairs Minister Mrs Edna Molewa told the meeting it was aligned with the SADC on wildlife conservation and law enforcement as well as the regional block’s law enforcement and anti-poaching strategy.

“The SADC region is unique and rich with abundant wildlife. This makes it prone to daily threats of poaching. Therefore, collaboration and co-ordination of law enforcement efforts are the key to maintaining the ecological integrity of the region,” she said.

She went on to elaborate on transnational co-operation saying if properly facilitated with complementary partners, it can serve as the basis for general cross-border co-operation. This would include sharing technology, training, joint operations and joint operational centres, information sharing and common communication systems.

Mrs Molewa added that it was “imperativethat legal means be found to ensure the punishments meted out to convicted poachers in the region is standardised”.