Category Archives: Wildlife and Eco-Tourism

The natural world and conservation issues.

South Africa – rhino breeder John Hume to sell rhino horn in global online auction

timeslive (South Africa)

500kg of horn for sale as rhino owner hosts controversial global online auction

24 June 2017 – 09:49 By Tony Carnie
South African rhino breeder John Hume has a herd of nearly 1500 rhinos at his private ranch in North West province. Their horns are “harvested” on a regular basis.

South African rhino breeder John Hume has a herd of nearly 1500 rhinos at his private ranch in North West province. Their horns are “harvested” on a regular basis.
Image: Tony Carnie

The world’s biggest rhino breeder has announced plans to sell part of his massive stockpile of horns in a global online auction, sparking concern that this could undermine the 40- year-old international ban on rhino horn trading.

Billed as the world’s first “legal rhino horn auction”, the three-day sale is scheduled for midday on August 21.

South African businessman and game rancher John Hume, who has nearly 1500 rhinos at his game farm in the North West, has a stockpile of nearly six tons of horns that he wants to sell. This after he won a series of court battles earlier this year to overturn the eight-year-old moratorium on the domestic sale of rhino horns.

Hume – along with other private rhino breeders – has been removing horns from his herd for several years. The animals are anaesthetised and the top section of the horn removed so that they can regrow naturally as part of a “bloodless, horn-harvesting” operation.

In an attempt to halt the unrelenting slaughter of rhinos in Africa and Asia by poaching syndicates, a ban on the international sale of rhino horns came into force in 1977 by member states of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This was followed by a 2009 ban on the sale of rhino horns within South Africa that coincided with an unprecedented spike in horn poaching.

Now that Hume has overturned the moratorium on domestic sales within South Africa, he plans to sell 500kg of horns in an online auction that will be open to bidders from China, Vietnam and other nations. A condition of sale is that the horns will have to remain in South Africa until global trade is unbanned – or alternatively, until foreign buyers are granted import and export permits from South Africa and their home nations.

Senior officials of the Department of Environmental Affairs and South Africa’s Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA) held a meeting in Pretoria early on Friday to wrangle over the terms of the proposed auction. It it is understood that the department raised a number of concerns over import and export permit procedures yesterday, but Hume told TMG Digital that the auction was going ahead regardless.

“The (auction) dates are fixed” he said on Friday.

In a social media campaign notice, it was announced that the auction would start on August 21, with anonymous bids continuing until noon on August 24.

This was confirmed by the appointed Pretoria-based auction house. Van’s Auctioneers spokesman Johan van Eyk said Hume would offer just over 500 kg of rhino horns for sale. The horns would be split into 250 separate lots, mainly sets of front and back horns and some larger individual front horns.

A second, conventional auction would be held amid tight security in Gauteng on September 19.

Van Eyk said he was not willing to speculate on expected prices, but noted that current domestic black-market prices were considerably lower than end-of-market prices in the Far East.

Jo Shaw, rhino programme manager for the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) in South Africa, has questioned why buyers would want to bid for rhino horn when the international trade remains illegal.

“There is no significant demand for rhino horns inside South Africa and the access to international markets is illegal – so why would buyers want to bid for horns at this auction?”

A spokesman for environmental affairs Minister Edna Molewa did not respond to written queries last night, while the CITES secretariat in Switzerland claimed it was not aware of the proposed auction.

Instead, CITES spokesman Yuan Liu pointed to a statement issued earlier this year after South Africa published draft proposals that would allow foreign nationals to export two rhino horns from South Africa for “personal purposes”.

This statement notes that – with the exception of legal hunting trophies – no rhino horns can be traded internationally “if the use is for primarily commercial purposes”.

“The Secretariat has received questions from CITES parties and journalists, as well as messages of concern from the general public, regarding measures proposed by the Republic of South Africa relating to the domestic trade and the export for personal purposes of rhinoceros horn…The application of relevant CITES provisions to South Africa’s proposal is rather complex.”

But private rhino owners – who now own 37% of South Africa’s increasingly threatened rhino population – are hoping that buyers from London, Tokyo, Beijing, New York and other major centres will still bid for a slice of the massive stockpile of rhino horns that has been building up for forty years in private and state storage facilities in South Africa.

PROA spokesman Pelham Jones described the latest move as the first move of a “two-step dance”.

“Why buy it illegally, when you can buy it legally? There is no intention nor desire to flood the market. After the first horn auctions are held we will be able to see how much interest there is. There is no legal bar to holding an auction,” he argued, noting that rhino owners had studied the relevant legislation very closely.

“We see a lot of nonsense on social media suggesting that this would enable ‘blood horns’ to be laundered and sold off. It’s nonsense because you have to be in possession of a permit in order to sell horns. Poaching will continue unless there is a regulated supply of horn available to meet demand,” he said.

Uganda-Kenya – African and Asian investigators break up ivory smuggling syndicate

Reuters

NAIROBI Seven smugglers involved in the illegal ivory trade from Uganda to Singapore have been arrested as a result of an 18-month investigation by African and Asian law enforcement officials, a counter-trafficking organisation said.

The operation netted a top Kenyan customs officer and shipping agents who facilitated the covert ivory pipeline, highlighting progress in Africa on cross-border collaboration by law enforcement agencies, Freeland, the anti-trafficking organisation that supported the operation, said.

Tens of thousands of African elephants are killed for their tusks every year, leading to drop of 20-30 percent in their numbers on the continent over the last decade.

However, environmentalists say law enforcement agencies are increasingly disrupting smuggling networks.

“These arrests reveal how the smuggling has been orchestrated,” Freeland chairman Kraisak Choonhavan, a prominent Thai politician, said in a statement released over the weekend.

Freeland has been training a network of African investigators and facilitating cooperation with Asian counterparts.

Those arrested were linked to a seizure in March 2014 of a tonne of ivory in Singapore. That shipment was believed to have originated in Uganda and been shipped out of Kenya.

“We hope the investigation will now continue in Asia to find the big buyers who are sponsoring the killing of elephants. Africa is now ahead of Asia in going beyond seizures and making meaningful arrests of wildlife criminals,” Choonhavan said.

Although the operation was focussed on ivory smuggling, Freeland said a wildlife trafficking kingpin on Interpol’s wanted ‘Red Notice’ list who was involved in smuggling pangolin scales had been caught and extradited to Tanzania.

Pangolin scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine, making the creatures one of the most widely trafficked wild animals in the world.

(Reporting by David Lewis; Editing by Ed Cropley

South Africa – Cape fires cause 10,000 to flee Knysna

BBC

 

Strong winds from the worst winter storm in 30 years fuelled the fires.

At least 150 properties have been destroyed in Knysna, according to the fire service.

The town has a population of 77,000. It lies 500km (310 miles) east of Cape Town on South Africa’s famed Garden Route.

FiresImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Knysna is on a popular tourist trail

“Humanitarian support is being co-ordinated for an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 residents of the Greater Knysna area, after devastating fires,” said James-Brent Styan, spokesman for the Western Cape local government ministry.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would assist in a water-bombing operation to extinguish the fires, its spokesman Simphiwe Dlamini said.

About 150 troops would also be deployed to make sure that criminals do not loot properties that have been vacated, he added.

In May, the Western Cape province declared a drought disaster after two reservoirs had completely dried up. It was said to have been the region’s worst drought in more than a century.

Several other southern African nations were also affected by the two-year drought, which was caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon.

However, many parts of the region are now experiencing bumper maize harvests.

Kenya – is rebellion on the cards after Laikipia invasions

Star (Kenya)

Is rebellion the next phase of Laikipia violence?

Jun. 05, 2017, 12:00 am

Cows belonging to Pokot tribesmen walk around the carcass of an elephant killed by armed cattle herders in Mugui Conservancy, Kenya February 11, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Cows belonging to Pokot tribesmen walk around the carcass of an elephant killed by armed cattle herders in Mugui Conservancy, Kenya February 11, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

A mysterious report about the Laikipia invasions is circulating through embassies, NGOs and members of the farming community.

It warns that the Laikipia crisis is driven by an attempted land grab that could turn into a rebellion by disgruntled young pastoralists from northern Kenya.

The author’s name is not given but the academic paper appears remarkably well informed about politics and history of northern Kenya. The author would appear to be a British anthropologist.

The paper is entitled Cattle Barons: Political Violence, Land Invasions and Forced Displacement in Kenya’s Laikipia County.

The author says he met 135 respondents in Laikipia county between January and April 2017.

“The identity of the respondents in this research has been withheld, along with details about their home community and dates of meetings with the researcher, in order to protect them from harm,” the author states.

Read the full text of the paper.

 

What follows is a summary and highlights of the report.

 

SUMMARY

The paper argues that there is a five-year long strategic plan to invade Laikipia’s private land, coinciding with national devolution, the creation of Laikipia North constituency and the election of Laikipia North MP Mathew Lempurkel in 2013.

“This far predates the onset of Kenya’s recent dry spell from November 2016 onwards, dispelling illusions that the land invasions are driven by drought. Rather, the declaration of drought countrywide in February 2017 has served as a timely mirage behind which the true ends of the invasions in Laikipia have been obscured to outsiders.”

“Into this power vacuum has stepped a network of pastoralist elites from Laikipia, Samburu, Baringo and Isiolo counties.”

“The invasions are choreographed through meetings and mobile phones, and supported with active armament of weapons and munitions, cash payments and other material support from the elite cartel. Accordingly, the invaders operate in a militia-like formation.”

Elephants walk in front of cows belonging to Samburu cattle herder tribesmen, who destroyed the fence and entered Mugie Conservancy and chased elephants away from drinking water, in Kenya February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

The paper argues that a crisis of pastoralism is accentuated by the introduction of technology.

“Specifically mobile phones, M-Pesa and social media, incomplete education, militarisation through a proliferation of weapons across northern Kenya, and a population explosion, have brought about problematic mutations of their customary ways of life.

The paper concludes that the long-term solution to prevent this crisis from cyclically re-emerging is to tackle the unsustainability of pastoralism in its current state and the resulting susceptibility of its frustrated youth to political co-option in the affected counties.

There must be education and viable employment opportunities offering young people alternatives to pastoralism, rehabilitation of the severely degraded northern rangelands, the revival of veterinary standards and protocols, together with better livestock marketing systems.

 

THE INVASIONS

The paper estimates that the invasion brought 135,000 cattle together with 200,000 sheep and goats into Laikipia by early 2017, displaced at least 10,000 people and killed scores of residents. A security operation started on March 17 but violence continues.

“Laikipia is among Kenya’s most ethnically heterogeneous counties. Maasai, Turkana, Kikuyu, Samburu, Pokot and Tugen are among the most populous tribes, as well as Kenyans of European descent, Somalis and a variety of other foreign nationals.”

“What happens next in Laikipia will impact much of northern Kenya,” the paper states. “Laikipia could serve as the crucible from which tensions could propagate and bleed into the surrounding counties or the country’s centre.”

“Laikipia’s current crisis does not lend itself to the typical labels applied to African conflicts; it is not simply one tribe against another, or black versus white, or ‘haves’ versus ‘have-nots’. The fault lines of this conflict lie between two groups: those whose interests are in stability and the rule of law, and those who profit from its absence. The former group requires strong, institutionalised governance, particularly with regard to land tenure enforcement and the management of sustainable livelihoods at the grassroots level and by the government. Meanwhile, the latter flourishes in the absence of law, with the trading of cattle, guns, land and votes.”

“We can call this environment a ‘political marketplace’, a localised mutation of the political culture that presides over much of the Horn of Africa and conflict-prone nations.”

A KWS ranger drives out cattle from a ranch in Laikipia on March 10, 2017. JACK OWUOR

HISTORY

“In 1911, a new agreement was signed between Maasai elders and the British East Africa Protectorate administration, under which the ‘Northern Maasai were forced to migrate again from Laikipia to an extended Southern Maasai Reserve.”

“Meanwhile, the arrival of European settlers over the subsequent decades into Laikipia led eventually to the establishment of large private ranches. When power was transferred from the colonial to the Independent Kenyan government in 1963, a process of ‘Africanisation’ of land ownership was adopted.”

“Land-buying companies purchased and subdivided large properties across Laikipia. Individual buyers, commonly Kikuyus from central Kenya and Nairobi, often then purchased the subdivided plots. However, the semi-arid land could not support the higher intensity of farming that the smallholders wanted, and with a stocking rate of about one adult cow to 15 acres in this ranching area, their plots were usually too small to practise livestock keeping on any adequate scale. In time, insecurity from raiding pastoralists played its part, driving residents out and creating what are now known as Laikipia’s ‘abandoned lands’. This was an early precursor to the current invasions.”

“Whilst clusters of smallholders have remained to cultivate their land, more commonly, the absentee-owned land is today occupied by transhumant Samburu and Pokot,” says the report.

Group ranches were devised to accommodate Laikipia’s resident pastoralists, namely the Laikipiak Maasai, indigenous descendants of the pre-colonial inhabitants of the county who avoided being moved in 1911.

Today, 37 per cent of Laikipia is under large-scale ranches or conservancies.

Group ranches owned by pastoralist communities cover another 32 per cent, while around 20 per cent of Laikipia is owned by smallholder farmers, typically from the Kikuyu or Turkana communities.

LAND OWNERSHIP

“Large private ranches, group ranches and smallholders often share a common interest in the enforcement of land tenure and property rights. “

“For pastoralists from the Pokot and Samburu tribes, land use has traditionally been conceptualised differently. Pre-colonially, the ownership of land through legal tenure did not exist. Today, legal land tenure is only partially or selectively recognised.”

“A Samburu elder in Laikipia states simply: ‘We do not need boundaries.’”

“The word for ‘boundary’ does not exist in the Pokot language.”

“For the Pokot and the Samburu, the herds of cattle are rarely used for subsistence (that is, eating and trading) but are rather a symbolic show of status, wealth and masculinity.”

“Herd size has traditionally been limited by cycles of drought and inter-communal raiding, which acts as a natural destocking system.”

“However, rapid population growth has combined with an increase in cash wealth, particularly among the pastoralist elite, and paved way for a gradual increase in cattle populations in these rangelands, sharply accelerated in recent years by a period without severe drought.”

“Much of Samburu and Isiolo counties now have a chronic lack of pasture, and likewise in Baringo, rangelands are degraded and the remaining grazing land has been heavily constricted, partly due to growth in agricultural activities on the land.”

Mugie Conservancy wildlife manager Jamie Manuel walks in front of a bush fire which is set up according to witnesses by cattle herders in Mugui Conservancy, Kenya, February 11, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

PASTORALISM IN CRISIS

“Anthropological study has labelled the Samburu society, which by extension can be largely applied to the Pokot and the Maasai, too, as a gerontocracy, wherein power rests with older men.”

“The pastoralist encounter with various trappings of development and modernity in Kenya has in recent decades eroded their gerontocratic governance structures.”

Partial encounter with education, rather than no education at all, has bred irreverence among morans, one Samburu elder told the researcher. “Violent armed movements in rural areas from South Sudan to Sierra Leone have been fuelled by a comparable sense among the male youth of a simultaneous alienation from both the traditional ways of home and the modern structures of the educated or urban society.”

“The adoption of the mobile phone is very widespread among morans, and its contribution towards transforming pastoralist society, particularly through an erosion of customary modes of authority, is highly significant.”

“Normally, a moran would be organised and provided with information through the elders within his own community, allowing the elders to closely manage their communication and activities; now phones allow anybody to communicate with the morans.”

“Accompanying this, the M-Pesa mobile money transfer system, also widely adopted, allows cash to circulate freely.”

CATTLE BARONS

“Morans herding or trespassing cattle are invariably poor family members or hired employees given ‘warrior’ status and often armed with guns and supplied with food and alcohol, but they are not the owners, and the majority of these pastoralists own very few cattle. Ownership can be determined because the cattle frequently carry the owners’ brand, allowing staff on invaded ranches to identify which barons are involved.”

Owners can be wealthy businessmen as well as politicians.

“At the centre of this ‘cartel’ in Laikipia North sits the incumbent Laikipia North MP Mathew Lempurkel,” the report claims.

It also names MP for Baringo’s Tiaty constituency, Asman Kamama, as “driving the invasions by Pokot from Laikipia’s western side”.  He was chairman of the Parliamentary Security Committee until political pressure forced him to step down in March 2017. Kamama’s own herds are allegedly grazing in Laikipia’s invaded ranches. Another five MPs and senior politicians are named as having cattle grazing on the invaded ranches.

One of the brand new KOFC ammunition used by attackers in Laikipia and manufactured in the government’s Eldoret bullet factory. /COURTESY

PHASES OF INVASION

“However, the invasions of large private ranches in recent months are not the start of the problem, but rather just the latest and most visible stage in a five-year trajectory of political violence against landowners and residents of Laikipia.”

Phase 1: “Pokot livestock herders have been invading sporadically since the early 2000s, with an increase in insecurity during every election year, but with an unprecedented spike in the frequency and aggression of attacks on the largely Kikuyu smallholders since 2013.”

Phase 2: “ Late June, heavily armed Samburu invaded Segera Ranch from then Lombala, and the incidence of attacks increased.”

Phase 3: “From early January 2017 — the beginning of the election year — the invasions escalated sharply in scale of numbers and the level of violence.”

Among the ranches invaded were Mugie, Sosian, Suyian, and Sosian where Tristan Voorspuy was shot dead in March. The attack on Kifuku became an all-out siege.

“Meanwhile, on Laikipia’s western edges, the violence has continued to escalate. Smallholders in the Kamwenje and wider abandoned lands area have faced armed attacks on their homes with increased frequency by both Samburu and Pokot, who residents say are very well armed.”

“Around the middle of March [March 17], a long-awaited joint security operation between the police and KDF was deployed to key ranches — LNC, Suyian, Sosian and Ol Maisor. At the time of writing, the outcome of this operation has not yet become clear.

MOBILISATION

The report says radio and social media is a key driver of Laikipia’s land invasions.

It cites the “well-known case” where Lempurkel announced on the Maa-language radio station, Serian FM, that “there is no private land in Laikipia North. Nobody will go short of grass while I am MP”.

Cash is also widely distributed through M-Pesa and in early March 2017, the confiscated mobile phone of a Pokot man arrested on Mugie conservancy contained lengthy phone calls from an MP, as well as numerous M-Pesa transactions.

STRATEGY

“Violence and displacement among Laikipia’s resident communities are not just accidental side-effects of the land invasions – they are in fact a central, if not the central, aim.”

“Across all types of land in Laikipia, both large and small properties, a general trend is visible of trying to intimidate the title deed holders, presumably so that they will vacate the land.”

“For example, in Kamwenje, since 2014, a pattern has emerged of grave sexual violence by the Pokot against Kikuyu smallholders.”

“Meanwhile, on Laikipia’s eastern side, the violence against the Laikipiak Maasai communities by Samburu invaders in recent months has reached a shocking scale,” the report says. “The fact that indigenous Laikipiak Maasai are being targeted in this way indicates how the land invasions are not really about addressing colonial era injustices — but they are certainly about election politics and land.”

Sosian ranger John Morijo who was shot in the face by a Pokot militia on April 23, 2017 during a cattle raid and is now suffering from PTSD. /COURTESY

VOTING

“Laikipia as a whole is ethnically cosmopolitan, and the Samburu as a voting bloc, even combined with the Pokot, would struggle to secure a pastoralist seat for county governor, senator or any of the other county-level positions. However, at the constituency and ward level, the ‘ethnic arithmetic’ stands more in the minority group’s favour, which explains why the MP and MCA seats are so hotly contested by Samburu and Pokot candidates.” “Eyewitness reports from multiple sources have described how Lempurkel has told Samburu from the northern counties at several community meetings that as long as they register to vote, obtaining a voting card in Laikipia North, he will ensure their continued access to ranch grazing land.”

“Preliminary IEBC data showing the number of registered voters in each polling station in Laikipia North (of which there are 100 ) in 2013 and 2017 respectively, tend to confirm the truth of this allegation.”

Laikipiak Maasai, Laikipia’s second-largest voting bloc after the Kikuyu,  are being displaced from their community areas, including Makurian and Il Ngwesi group ranches.

“It is widely accepted among the respondents of this research that the pastoralist elite ‘cartel’ and their moran foot soldiers want to stage a mass land grab of the county’s private land.”

“The inciters’ claim — a fiction — is that when 99-year land leases of the Anglo-Maasai agreements expire, the land will be up for grabs.”

The report says that Laikipia’s local pastoralists cannot resist the invasions because their morans are far less well armed than the northern Samburu or the Pokot.

Similarly, the Kikuyu, Turkana and Tugen small farmers are powerless against the armed Samburu and Pokot trespassing on their land, stealing their livestock and attacking their families.

The report warns of a possible escalation of violence as “some households had begun arming themselves.”

“A proper disarmament excise of the Samburu and Pokot at this stage is, therefore, all the more essential.”

RANCHES

The report says that the larger private ranches have grazing agreements with immediate neighbours, who are pastoralists. A quota of livestock is allowed to graze in exchange for a small fee or in some cases for free. On the community side, grazing committees, normally comprised of elders, manage the deal.

In exchange, the ranch is supposed to be protected from invasion.

SECURITY

“The police force in the county is internally divided.”

“In smallholder areas, the police have confronted invaders fleetingly, or not at all. “

“Likewise on the group ranches, police engagement has been short-lived and limited.”

“The inaction by police on the ground could be due to a combination of both an unwillingness by the deployed police officers themselves, faced with heavily armed and well-organised pastoralist militia, and because of instructions from their more senior officers.”

“During some of the major invasions from January to March 2017, Laikipia’s residents speculated whether an agreement was made at the elite level, whereby the police would deploy a security operation but not actually confront the invaders.”  “In order to meet the shortfall in police support, many communities have requested National Police Reserve status.”

GOVERNMENT

“Every interviewee in Laikipia’s smallholding areas, as well as the group ranches and the majority of the private ranchers, voiced a unanimous opinion: that the only thing to improve the situation would be full government engagement, including a robust security operation.”

“Where government security services were deployed proactively in Laikipia, in the form of the Kenya Wildlife Service on rhino sanctuaries including Ol Jogi and Ol Pejeta conservancies, those properties have not been invaded at the time of writing.”

The report asks: “Why would the Jubilee (government) allow an ODM leader (Lempurkel) to gain so much momentum?”

“Until March 2017, all that Nairobi had done was to issue a public statement saying that the land invasions will not be tolerated. The ongoing KDF operation, with around one company deployed, is relatively small in scale and firepower.”

“The Jubilee Party may be scared that a security operation could a) radicalise pastoralists who are currently politically moderate; b) fuel and justify further pastoralist insurgency in the name of ‘self–defence’ and rebellion, c) lose the Jubilee party crucial pastoralist voting blocs.”

Ol Maisor employee Athaju Eloto, who died after being shot by Pokot militias on April 13, 2017. /COURTESY

CONCLUSION

“Laikipia’s invasions have emerged out of two coinciding crises: a pastoralist crisis and a political crisis. The former has been building over the course of several decades. The political crisis gained pace in 2013, when chauvinist politicians with increased resources in the new devolution era exploited the crisis in pastoralism to create lawlessness because they saw this as the best way to gain or stay in power.”

The report says the risk of “young, uneducated Samburu morans… accomplishing a land grab in Laikipia seems remote”.

“Nonetheless, this crisis holds all the key ingredients needed for an insurgency. In the appropriate conditions, an armed rebellion could arise from the pastoralist communities of Laikipia, Baringo, Samburu and Isiolo counties.”

“There are reports that some armed Samburu morans operating together in Laikipia have already begun calling themselves the Samburu Defence Force. This militarisation in turn leads to a distancing from members of their own community and disregard for the customary systems of governance.”

“In the long term, the only way to forestall this crisis from cyclically re-emerging is to tackle it at its source, that is, the unsustainability of pastoralism in its current state and resulting susceptibility to political misappropriation of its frustrated, often armed, youth.”

“Measures to remedy this would need to be robust and these are beyond the scope of this particular research project. They include education at the primary and secondary level, accompanied by realistic and obtainable opportunities for employment and integration into the cash economy, emphasising skills-based or vocational training.”

“Second, a rehabilitation of the northern rangelands, a diversification away from pastoralism with alternative forms of livelihoods. Management of livestock-carrying capacity on the rangelands should be at the forefront of any such long-term efforts, together with revival of the veterinary standards and regimes that once existed in post-Independence Kenya, and effective measures to market livestock.”

South Africa – top anti-poaching cop accused of conspiracy to kill poachers; is there an ANC connection

News24


Top anti-poaching cop pulled from beat due to alleged ‘murder conspiracy’

2017-06-01 22:44

Tania Broughton, News24 correspondent

Durban – As rhino poaching reaches an unprecedented scale, it has emerged that KwaZulu-Natal’s top “anti-poaching” cop has been kicking his heels in a city office after being pulled from the beat in 2015.
Since then, statistics suggest, there has been a marked increase in the number of rhino poached in the province – from 116 that year, to 162 in 2016 and this year, to date, 100.
Warrant Officer JP van Zyl-Roux, 47, has almost 30 years of service – the last 10 years in the Endangered Species Investigation Section of the Hawks, most of it as a “team leader” working undercover in game reserves in KwaZulu-Natal.
During that time, he and his team were responsible for apprehending about 70 rhino poachers, he has been given awards by the Minister of Environmental Affairs and he led a team which investigated an international syndicate, resulting in SA receiving a certificate under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
In a no-holds-barred statement to News24 his lawyer, Jacques Botha, claimed Van Zyl-Roux is now being victimised and “this issue is rooted in the shooting of poachers purportedly linked to a very high-ranking ANC politician.
“I have seen some astounding abuses of power in my 20 years of practice, but this is the most gross abuse I have ever seen,” Botha said.
READ: Rhino plot: farmers jailed
‘Bizarre’ charges
Van Zyl-Roux was taken off anti-poaching investigations because of allegations against him of possible criminal conduct involving a “murder conspiracy” in which alleged poachers were being shot dead.
Botha said the intended criminal charges were “utterly bizarre and ridiculous.
“The charges related to my client allegedly conspiring to kill rhino poachers, all of whom were actually shot by members of the Special Task Force while armed, resisting arrest and shooting back and in circumstances where they were caught red-handed in game reserves.
“Not a single one off the so-called conspirators – the actual shooters – were to be charged nor had any deposed to accomplice [State witness] statements.
“There was no case… my client did not shoot anyone dead. He once shot a gun out of the hand of one poacher and arrested the suspect,” Botha said.
“I advised that we would not respond to the allegations until we had all the dockets… they had no answers to the point made as to the multitude of suspects arrested on the same operations [who were not shot] and who pleaded guilty in court or were otherwise convicted.
“The matter went nowhere and it appears there has been a decision not to prosecute.”
READ: Increase in KZN rhino poaching
Hearing
In December 2016, Van Zyl-Roux was issued with a notice that he was being investigated internally and in March he was served with a notice to appear before a disciplinary inquiry.
The charges relate to allegations that he failed to hand over a docket to Anti-Corruption Unit investigators, that private firearms were found in his office and that through his conduct he had put the SAPS into “disrepute and embarrassment”.
“This second round is a belated amateur effort at nailing my client about private firearms in his office,” said Botha.
Botha said in terms of police regulations, if the allegations are considered “serious” – and a possible dismissible offence – a police officer may be represented by an attorney at the hearing.
But in spite of getting written permission to represent Van-Zyl Roux he was kicked out of the hearing after reading in his client’s plea statement.
In it he denied all the allegations and claimed the charges arise out of an “ulterior motive on the part of certain elements with the ranks of employer (SAPS) of which the ultimate aim is to either terminate or curtail my issues with respect to anti-poaching and related corruption activities.
“The charges are fatally defective, vague and embarrassing. The factual nature of these charges is of a truly trivial nature.
“This entire prosecution is malicious and ought to be dismissed forthwith,” the plea read.
‘Poorly choreographed charade’
Botha said: “The plea caused immediate visible concern to the prosecutor and the trial officer, who both adjourned to conspire to get rid of me as fast as possible.
“They returned with a poorly choreographed charade, giving the game away when the trial officer immediately asked the prosecutor if he had any application to make. Without a second of deliberation, I was immediately released – I say fired – without being afforded an opportunity to respond.
“My client’s allegations regarding a conspiracy were now substantiated, it was now so obvious. I placed it on record that I had obviously become a thorn in their sides; the conviction and dismissal of my client was now a foregone conclusion, they were a thinly-disguised tag-team to convict my client and evict him from the SAPS.
“I stated that my presence would have no impact on the outcome of the matter and I would rather help him when he appeals the outcome,” Botha said.
Van Zyl-Roux declined to comment on the issue.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the matter was “one for employer and employee and not for public consumption”.

Uganda – government inspector-general probing wildlife authority over ivory stolen from stocks

allAfrica/Monitor

Kampala — The disappearance of 1,300 kilogrammes of ivory from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) stores has pushed President Yoweri Museveni to order the Inspector General of Government (IGG0 to investigate operations of the wildlife body.

President Museveni wants the IGG to investigate Dr Andrew Sseguya, the UWA executive director and other top officials over suspected criminal conduct.

The IGG spokesperson Ms Ali Munira confirmed receiving instructions from the president to institute fresh investigations regarding the disappearance of Ivory from UWA’s strong room.

“This is a fresh investigation regarding the disappearance of the ivory and we have started the probe that will among other things find out suspected wrong doing amongst the top officials at UWA,” Ms Munira said on Wednesday.

But Dr Sseguya said he was not aware of any investigation by IGG because nobody has written to him.

“What I am aware of is that the IGG investigated us in the past and is supposed to have written to the President about the findings and I think this is what some of the media houses are writing about,” said Dr Sseguya.

Dr Sseguya maintained his innocence saying he initiated the audit after the reported missing ivory.

But Ms Munira says a letter by the president dated May 2, 2017 ordered the IGG to probe UWA on a number of issues that includes; UWA officials colluding with two diplomats at the Embassy of China in Kampala to export ivory from DR Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan.

The letter states that the 1, 300 kilogrammes of ivory valued at Shs3.4 billion were seized from smugglers at Entebbe International Airport in January 2015 was part of the stock that was stolen from the UWA strong room.

“We received the letter and we are assessing the contents but some of the issues raised in the letter are old issues which we have already investigated but we are also in advanced stages to institute a team that will handle a fresh probe into the alleged missing ivory,” Ms Munira said.

Uganda – China rejects charges that diplomats smuggling ivory

The Monitor

Friday June 2 2017
Poaching has risen sharply in recent years

Poaching has risen sharply in recent years across Africa, fuelled by rising demand in Asia for ivory and rhino horn, coveted as traditional medicine and a status symbol 

China on Thursday rejected allegations that two of its diplomats working in Uganda were involved in the trafficking of ivory from the African country.
The Chinese embassy officials are suspected of helping move ivory from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, using Uganda as a transit point, Ali Munira, a spokeswoman for Uganda’s top anti-corruption body, told this reporter this week.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has ordered a probe into possible collusion between the country’s wildlife agency and the diplomats, Munira said.
But China dismissed reports of the allegations as “totally unfounded”.

“We have rigorous regulations and laws on governmental officials, embassy members, and visiting groups to forbid them from buying or engaging in (smuggling) activities,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.
But she added: “We will punish them if they are found to be engaged in such activities.”
Poaching has risen sharply in recent years across Africa, fuelled by rising demand in Asia for ivory and rhino horn, coveted as traditional medicine and a status symbol. Uganda is a major transit country for the illegal trade.

China announced in December that it would ban all ivory trade and processing by the end of 2017, a move hailed by conservationists as a “game changer” for African elephants.
More than 35,000 elephants are killed across Africa every year for their tusks.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the ivory trade in 1989.
But China permits the resale of ivory bought before the 1989 ban — and also has a stockpile purchased with CITES approval in 2008, which it releases for sale with certification.