Rangers under fire in war against rhino poachers

27 July 2018 - 10:12 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
File photo.
File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

The National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw) has called for better protection of rangers deployed to combat rhino poaching.

SANParks ranger Respect Mathebula was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire last week as his unit confronted a gang of poachers in the Kruger National Park.

Mathebula was based at the Crocodile Bridge section of the Kruger park and joined SANParks in February 2015 as field ranger‚ according to the Lowvelder.

“Nupsaw‚ as a trade union‚ wants to reiterate that it is our duty to ensure that all workers are properly protected by their employers against any fatal hazardous incidents that could occur‚” said the union’s national organiser Solly Malema.

“Not only is a family grieving their personal loss of a loved one‚ but also the loss of a breadwinner which is one of the issues government shies away from.”

The union criticised Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa’s “arrogant” tribute to Mathebula‚ which it said focused more on the poaching of animals than on protecting the lives of rangers.

“Recognition for the crucial role that these heroes were playing start with monetary compensation for damages to the families or next of kin for economic losses such as earnings‚ medical expenses and general non-economic damages like pain and suffering and emotional distress‚ beginning with the late field ranger Respect Mathebula who died last week in the line of duty.”

Rising incidents of post-traumatic stress disorder‚ acute stress disorder and burnout were some of the effects rangers endured as a result of ongoing assault‚ Malema said.

“On 24 July 2018‚ Nupsaw sent an open letter to the President Cyril Ramaphosa‚ appealing that he as commander-in-chief of the SA National Defence Force make a call that will be practically executed as a matter of urgency‚" said Malema. “Our call on government is to ensure border patrols by the army and the intelligence service to enhance their capacity and to form synergies with our sister countries‚ including Mozambique and Zimbabwe because these rhino poachers make use of their borders to gain access into our parks.

“While government is dragging their feet‚ rhino-fatigue is settling in and the war against poaching will sadly become a lost battle with rangers and soon it will turn into one rhino‚ one ranger.”

Mathebula’s funeral will take place on Saturday near Bushbuckridge.