Cape Town — The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, is expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to address rhino poaching with Vietnam next month when she visits that country.
Molewa said she would visit Vietnam after 9 December on her way home after a climate change meeting in Qatar and sign the document then.
She was speaking in Cape Town at the launch of the department's National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report 2011/12.
Some of the most prevalent crimes reported included the illegal hunting of rhino, unlawful waste disposal, unlawful cutting and collecting of wood, and driving in a coastal area without a permit.
Molewa said a total of 570 rhinos were illegally hunted in South Africa in 2011. Hunted for their horns, 254 rhino were killed in the Kruger National Park, 34 were slaughtered in Limpopo, 34 in KwaZulu-Natal and 31 in Mpumalanga.
Law enforcement agencies arrested 232 suspects last year. This year, charges of illegal rhino hunting, dealing and being in possession of rhino horn have secured convictions in court.
"The first few cases which resulted in this outcome were important, both from the perspective of providing a precedent to other courts, but also to send out a strong message that imprisonment is the most likely consequence if you are caught engaging in such illegal activities," she said.
Molewa ruled out suggestions that government would put up an electric fence on the border between South Africa and Mozambique to keep poachers out, adding that the people arrested for poaching were from countries such as Vietnam.
Despite rhino poaching, there were still many rhinos left in South Africa, said the minister, adding that the last figure she had was 20 000.
Reviewing the performance of the Green Scorpions, Molewa said in 2011/12, a total of 1 339 arrests were affected compared with 1 899 arrested the previous year
Convictions obtained nationally were up from 72 to 82. Acquittals dropped from 22 to seven, while a total of 759 admissions of guilt fines were paid, bringing in R470 080.
Income from section 24 G administrative fines doubled from R8.3 million to R17.6 million. These fines were paid as a result of illegal commencement of Environment Impact Assessment and waste management activities.
On abalone poaching, she said government had been concerned when the moratorium on harvesting was lifted a few years ago that there could be an increase in poaching.
"We are focusing on the possible depletion of our marine resources. It's quite a concern and is an area that we have to focus on."
Molewa said there was a need for her department and the Department of Water Affairs to work closer together to thwart abalone poachers.
She said that abalone poaching could be linked to rhino poaching.