Kuzeeko Tjitemisa, New Era
Minister of Defence Penda yaNdakolo has warned poachers and their masters that the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) will return ‘fire with fire’ in the Bwabwata National Park as well as in the Etosha National Park.
The hard-nosed warning by YaNdakolo follows last month’s fatal shooting that saw a member of the defence force killed by poachers in the Bwabwata National Park. He made this warning on Tuesday while briefing members of parliament (MPs) on incidents against NDF members seconded to the anti-poaching operations in the two national parks.
“I warn poachers and individuals with intention to attack soldiers that the Namibian Defence Force will respond appropriately with necessary action against any act of hostility or aggression,” sternly warned the minister.
“We want to make it categorically clear that hostile actions targeting members of the defence force will not be tolerated under whatever circumstances,” he added.
YaNdakolo told lawmakers that since December 2018 poachers appear to have adopted new tactics and operating methods that escalated poaching activities in the two parks where they hunt elephants and other game.
He said the situation in the two national parks has now deteriorated as they have noted with sadness the increasing incidents of exchange of fire between the poachers and members of the Anti-Poaching Unit, including members of the Namibian Defence Force.
“This situation clearly indicates that poachers have now declared war on members of the defence force, the Namibian police, the Anti- Poaching Unit and all the forces involved in anti-poaching operations as evidenced by shooting incidents recorded thus far,” he said.
YaNdakolo said it can now be concluded that poachers have become more aggressive and violent towards the combined anti-poaching forces, including the defence force.
He said in December last year, there was an exchange of fire between members of the defence force and poachers in Bwabwata but fortunately no fatalities were sustained.
Also, he said, last month a Namibian Defence Force helicopter conducting air patrol in pursuit of poachers came under a rifle volley in the Etosha National Park, and fortunately is was missed and there were no casualties.
YaNdakolo appeals to individuals and the general public to support and cooperate with members of the Anti-Poaching Unit in order to protect the country’s wildlife, which he said is important to the economy.
He said since the involvement of the defence force in the anti-poaching operations, a number of rhino horns and elephant tasks were seized, more than 100 suspected poachers were arrested and dozens of ammunition and weapons of different kinds were confiscated.