Ileni Nandjato, Informante,

Date Published

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An intricate web of organised crime infiltrated the custodians of the national wildlife treasure in one of the most famous sanctuaries for elephant and rhino in the world, while the arming of poachers and the sidelining of the pioneering Etosha Anti-Rhino Poaching Gold Commander, Ndahangwapo Kashihakumwa, can be revealed for the first time by Informanté.
A repulsive story was revealed in a one-on-one interview at the homestead of the legendary commander who scored the first major successes against rhino poaching, and now vents his frustration at a lack of official cooperation in the fight against time to protect the valuable rhino and elephant species, the target of organised Chinese gangs in the north and north east of the country.
A probe into the wildlife paradise gives insight into a sophisticated gun running within the rhino poaching in and around the country’s biggest and popular national park, Etosha, which indicates that the fight against poachers cannot be won anytime soon if the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) does not act against inside complicity and the Namibian Police (Nampol) is not proactive in the campaign.
It also discovered that most of the poaching of rhinos and elephants is carried out by Namibians recruited by foreign syndicates which supply arms, ammunition, transport, money, and is perpetrated with the collusion of game wardens and officials within the MET.
Retired Police Commissioner Kashihakumwa told Informanté that investigations by the Nampol Anti-Poaching Unit, despite successes this year, is being hindered by the MET officials suspected of poaching in Etosha. “A group of MET officials who are involved in poaching were identified during my three-month operation and I forwarded all evidence to Minister Pohamba Shifeta and Nampol Inspector-General, Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga to have them suspended or transferred, but it never happened up to today,” said Kashihakumwa.
The former Oshana regional commander said that anti-poaching investigation can only be successful if Nampol and MET take his advice serious and start to remunerate anti-rhino poaching officers well to ward-off any temptations from poachers. “You don’t expect to have a successful investigation if people who are implicated in the said ministry are communicating with investigators. There are people who are willing to talk, but they are afraid of those people. They must be transferred or suspended, and if the investigations are completed they can be reinstated if they are clean.”
The former top cop also got a whiff of an involvement of a discreet Chinese syndicate that has purportedly recruited about 70 Namibians and has supplied them with firearms and live ammunition to poach. Before he retired, he was about to locate the syndicate, but could not complete the mission. “This is not only putting wildlife in danger, but also the nation because it is not known what sort of guns were supplied and where these people are,” said Kashihakumwa.
The rotation of the operation commander of Nampol’s Etosha Anti-Rhino Poaching Unit has also been identified as an impediment to the success of the operation. While Kashihakumwa initiated variable operation tactics, they are no longer in use, and poaching is continuing unabated. “Nampol and MET need to send experienced and a dedicated team to Etosha. They must be well paid and monitored so that they cannot get into contact with poachers who are testing security systems all the time. It is a whole lot of money being paid to poachers and they are doing everything possible to get what they want. When we were in Etosha, poachers tried to challenge us, but we manage to thwart their actions before they poached again. We arrested a number of them and confiscated their firearms,” Kashihakumwa said.
In the last 10 years from 2005, a total of 103 rhinos were poached of which 66% in 2015. This year alone about 80 rhinos (61 in Etosha) and about 40 elephants were confirmed to have been poached countrywide compared to 24 rhinos and 78 elephants last year. For the last three months, MET officials could not deny or confirm that about 12 more rhinos were poached since Kashihakumwa retired from Nampol and as commander of the anti-poaching unit three months ago.
The top cop also expressed his displeasure that Nampol did not recognise his team’s effort in the successful anti-rhino poaching operation in Etosha, which started in December 2014 with members of the Special Field Force. Many rhinos were still being poached until he took over in June this year. During his tenure communities around Etosha assisted to identify several syndicates. More than 40 people were arrested and more than 30 rifles confiscated. A Director in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, as well as a Nampol officer in Windhoek were also arrested. “When deputy Inspector-General, Major-General James Tjivikua came, he generalised our success and attributed it to people who were not involved. Credit needs to be given where it is due. Nobody thought I will lead to a successful anti-poaching operation in Etosha. Members of that operation team are still calling me that they are not paid money they were promised and it is very disappointing and demoralising factor,” Kashihakumwa said.