Daily Dispatch

SA must adopt ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy to stop rhino crisis


SOUTH Africa should adopt a “shoot-to-kill” policy to show it is serious about halting the country’s rhino poaching crisis.

This is the controvers­ial view of two University of Botswana academics‚ who raised a storm by urging South Africa to adopt the highly controvers­ial policy.

Writing in the latest issue of the SA Crime Quarterly journal‚ Goemeone Mogomotsi and Patricia Madigele argue that the policy‚ adopted in Botswana in 2013‚ was a “legitimate conservati­on strategy” and “a necessary evil” to protect rhinos from extinction.

Mogomotsi is a legal officer in the University of Botswana’s department of legal services‚ while Madigele is a resource economics scholar at the university’s Okavango Research Institute.

They argue the policy has reduced poaching levels in Botswana by sending out a message that if anyone wanted to poach in South Africa’s northern neighbour‚ it was possible that “you may not go back to your country alive”.

“We believe parks are war zones and that rules and principles of war ought to be implemente­d‚” they argue in the journal’s special issue on environmen­tal crime‚ published jointly by the Institute for Security Studies and the Centre of Criminolog­y at the University of Cape Town.

Guest editor Annette Hübschle insists the journal’s publicatio­n of the shoot-to-kill proposal was not in any way an endorsemen­t of the policy and also suggests it would not be allowed under South Africa’s constituti­on.

Hübschle and journal editor Andrew Faull also comment that South Africa and many of its neighbours are constituti­onal democracie­s that had abolished the death penalty.

“Introducin­g ‘shoot-to-kill’ may catapult us back to the dark days of apartheid and colonialis­m where the rule of law and fair process applied selectivel­y‚” they said.

Mogomotsi and Madigele‚ however‚ contend that Section 49 of South Africa’s Criminal Procedure Act allowed police and other arresting authoritie­s to use “lethal force” or “reasonably deadly force”.

“It is hence our view that South Africa’s legislativ­e framework allows for anti-poaching forces to be empowered to shoot at poachers if it is in the interests of their safety and the security of the endangered species.”

They also note that Africa’s elephant population had declined by as much as 50% from 1970 to the early were 2000s‚ while the continent’s black rhino population had plummeted by 67% from 1960 to the early 2000s.

They also state that Zimbabwe’s elephant population increased from 52 000 to 72 000 animals after that country adopted a shoot-to-kill policy in the late ’80s‚ adding that shootto-kill was “the only anti-poaching method that clearly signals that wild animals deserve to live”.

A spokesman for Environmen­tal Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has not responded to requests for comment on the controvers­ial proposal.

However‚ senior SA National Parks rhino special projects leader Major-General Johan Jooste has made it clear he does not support such measures.

In a separate interview in SA Crime Quarterly‚ Jooste said legal officials met rangers regularlys to train them on the legal rules of engagement with armed poachers.

“They drill it into them that you cannot take the law into your own hands because it is not nice to see a fatality. Nobody likes to see that.”

Jooste also told Hübschle there was no evidence that killing poachers would solve the problem.

“It is misleading when one is protecting some rhinos very well to say it’s because of ‘shoot-to-kill’,” he added. — DDC

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