By Patience Nyangove
THE Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta has slammed the door on private security firms eyeing lucrative security contracts in the country’s national parks to battle poaching.
Shifeta’s utterances come on the back of reports that the Ministry of Tourism was in the process of contracting some private security firms to take over anti-poaching patrols at national parks across the country.
Shifeta said it was difficult to rope in private security firms because that would mean Government will have to disclose sensitive information to them.
Shifeta added that instead of contracting private firms to patrol national parks his ministry was instead in the process of bringing in the military to assist in patrols and safe guard the country’s endangered wildlife like rhinos, elephants, and lions among others that are targeted by poachers.
“It’s not in the pipeline of the ministry. Anti-poaching security involves agents of the state. Roping in private security firms means sharing sensitive information with them. There is no such decision, but we have no problem with private companies and non-governmental organisations that must be vetted first. Rhino Trust is doing very well in assisting us. These private companies and non-governmental organisations that want to work with us must demonstrate that they are indeed committed to conservation.
“We have to be careful not to put too many hands; some security firms might have ulterior motives. However, so far none have approached me perhaps they have approached my colleagues. My intention is to rope in the defence forces to assist us.”
He however added that the ministry was open to collaborate with private security firms in areas like surveillance.
“The only problem is replacement of state security with private security firms. There is sensitive information shared and meant only for people vetted. Problems might start because we don’t know whether these people can be trusted or not. I am not saying all state security people can be trusted but we want to work with vetted people. The matters we deal with are sensitive for instance our informers. We don’t want them exposed.”
Shifeta added that his ministry was in the process of recruiting 500 individuals for its anti-poaching unit.
“We need to train them well and properly equip them. We have already set up a training centre at Waterberg,” he said.
Shifeta also disclosed that poachers in the country were being financed by well-off foreign syndicates.
“The evidence is there, local poachers are well equipped and the cars they are using, says it all. Somebody is paying them because they are well armed. These syndicates are of different levels and there is more than one group that is conniving with our own business people who poach and take the wildlife products to foreigners. Some are Asians who come here pretending to be doing business.”
He added that they are currently working on amending the law so that they can also prosecute alleged kingpins who use local poachers.
“There are international syndicates who have people in positions of authority colluding with them to smuggle wildlife products out of Namibia. These syndicates are colluding with former security guys and customs officials in these poaching and smuggling rings. These syndicates entice people in security with bribes. They look for countries with porous security. If you look at it rhino horns or elephant tusks are of no value in Africa. These people create fictitious values for these wildlife products. They put value for them to make money. Africa has no market for horns. The wildlife products are being smuggled from Africa as cargo,” said the Minister.