SAPS step up anti poaching strategy in Kruger National Park

The Portfolio Committee on Police is in the Kruger National Park where it wants to assess SAPS strategies on fighting rhino poaching.

 On Monday, the committee visited the Lebombo border post (Mozambique border) where it was shocked to find that many km's of security fence were no longer in place. They also found a serious lack of manpower and technology.

 Committee chairman, Mr Francois Beukes has called National Police Commissioner Ms Phiyega and her senior management team to a meeting on 18th Feb to explain how SAPS intends to meet challenges at Lebombo and other border posts.The Portfolio Committee on Police says it will kick-start a process of ensuring that South Africa has stricter border controls by calling the National Police Commissioner to the meeting of 18 February where the National Commissioner and her senior management team would explain how the South African Police Service plans to address challenges faced by the country's ports of entry.

"The matter of having tighter controls at our borders is a non-negotiable. It is a matter of National Security and as such the Committee will not compromise on making sure that security controls at our borders are heightened," said Mr Francois Beukman.

The Committee said this during its oversight visit to the Lebombo border post in Mpumalanga yesterday, where it heard of challenges experienced by police officers working at this border gate.

According to Mr Beukman, the 18 February meeting will seek responses on how SAPS intends addressing shortage of staff, technology as well as inadequate facilities at Lebombo border post. "We will also call the Director-General of Public Works to be part of this meeting as some of the challenges we picked up here fall squarely on their door-step."

Members were shocked to learn that some kilometres of the fencing around the Lebombo border post were no longer in place. They also heard that there was only one toilet catering for 160 police officers working at the border.

Police Officers inspecting the cars going in and out of Mozambique and South Africa have no shelter; they have to brave the sun, cold weather and rain when conducting their searches. Unlike other officials from SARS and Home Affairs, SAPS members are not allowed to reside in the precincts of the border post. They have to be transported in and out.

Colonel Mahlangu, the Commander in charge of the Lebombo border post says shortage of staff is one hindrance to their work, especially during the festive and Easter seasons. He said he normally has 30 officers on duty per-shift on daily basis but would love to have 50 officers to help ease the workload and congestion.

He said during busy times, the line of vehicles extends to about 50 kilometres from the boarder gates and the limited officers have to manually search the cars, checking for stolen cars, drugs, counter-fit and stolen goods as well as wanted criminals.

The Committee found it incomprehensible that SAPS had not procured a scanning machine in order to help the work done by police officers. "Technological advancement is very critical in this day and age. Having a scanner would help detect so many unwanted substances and we will urge SAPS to look into this matter," added Mr Beukman.

With the border post being a multi-departmental operation, Mr Beukman said he would engage his counter parts in Parliamentary Committees such as Defence, Intelligence, Home Affairs and Public Works towards conducting a joint oversight visit to some border posts in the country.

"We want to ensure that our borders are properly controlled to prevent and control illegal activities found in the country. And for this to happen, we need an integrated approach where all relevant role players can come together and ensure that our border controls are as effective as possible, " said Mr Beukman.

Today, the Committee is in Kruger National Park where assessing SAPS' strategies of fighting rhino-poaching.


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