The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs has made a call for all legislation relating to wildlife crimes, particularly the poaching and killing of rhinos, to be consolidated into one law.
The Committee is aware that various pieces of legislation deal with the issue of criminality related to rhinos. South Africa houses the largest number of rhinos in the world, which makes it particularly vulnerable to the syndicates that are poaching and killing rhinos, despite wildlife services that are working very hard to combat the criminal elements.
The Committee is aware that there are various problems presented in the lack of a current, clear piece of legislation that can deal with the current challenge with wildlife crimes, particularly rhino poaching.
The Committee is pleased to note that the Department of Environmental Affairs plans to initiate a policy and legislative development process to consolidate nationally all forms of wildlife compliance and enforcement including permitting, databases and investigations. The Committee is aware that there are other national departments that will be involved besides the Department of Environmental Affairs in ensuring that the kind of legislation that is necessary comes into effect.
The Chairperson of the Committee, Mr Phillemon Mapulane, has emphasised the importance of harsh minimum sentences in legislation dealing with rhino poaching.
"There are issues of minimum sentences for offenders, particularly on rhino poaching, that we feel are important and should be included in the legislation that will deal with this matter. This is because we need legislation that will be able to respond to the seriousness of the situation and having stiff and minimum sentences in the legislation will show our seriousness as a country to fight this situation."
The Committee therefore supports the interaction between the Department and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and other crime-fighting agencies in relation to this matter.
The Committee appreciates the efforts being made by the department and all other stakeholders to protect this species in the current fight against rhino poaching. It is for this reason that the Committee believes it is crucial that this legislation is in place to deal with any loopholes that might make the country more vulnerable to rhino poaching and to capacitate the department legally to fight effectively on this matter.