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Media Release: SANParks Rejects Claims of Poachers Mass Burial

13 April 2017

South African National Parks (SANParks) has rejected claims by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) that the remains of persons in a graveyard in Bushbuckridge are those of victims of poaching fatalities in the Kruger National Park (KNP). The allegations are devoid of substance.

The Mpumalanga Department of Health has already clarified that the graveyard in question, the Saselani cemetery contains the remains of persons who could not be identified and were given pauper burials from the provincial Department of Health in line with standard government protocols.

Pauper burials are common practice around the world when bodies are unclaimed from the State for lengthy periods of time. This includes people who die of both natural and unnatural causes. 

“This reckless statement by the EFF should be rejected with the contempt that it deserves,” says Minister of Environmental Affairs Dr. Edna Molewa; adding: “this is clearly a political ploy that seeks to score points at the expense of government as we continue to battle wildlife crime.”

SANParks notes that in each and every incident in the KNP involving contact with armed poachers, the South African Police Service (SAPS) attends to the crime scene and does a full investigation. A forensic specialist is in attendance in all such cases.

The SAPS opens dockets for all incidents. Furthermore, in all instances involving incursions the SAPS is in full control and manages the crime scenes within the context of our law.

“We view the statement as tactic intended to divert our attention from the real criminals by encouraging the communities to believe that the KNP is a war zone. Poaching of wildlife is a real problem confronting this country and it must never be used to play political games,” says Dr. Molewa.

Such inflammatory remarks could serve to damage good relations between the organization and communities living in areas adjacent to the KNP. By peddling unsubstantiated rumours the EFF is seeking to undermine the sterling work SANParks continues to do in bringing communities into the mainstream of wildlife conservation.

The communities of Bushbuckridge in particular are playing a leading role in working with SANParks to stamp out rhino poaching inside the KNP. Such statements are clearly aimed at undermining these good relationships.

“We view the statement by the EFF as an attempt to stir up the communities of Bushbuckridge, who are helping in SANParks’ efforts to fight poaching against the KNP. We must warn that anything said or done with the view to create bad reputation for SANParks will not work. We are also aware that some poaching kingpins operating outside and inside the country fund activities to disrupt the country, even using politics,” says Dr. Molewa.

In a widely cited article published in Business Day newspaper, Minister Molewa notes that certain sectors of society have become accustomed to peddling rumours in the public space, assuming they will be accepted as fact.

“The EFF must desist from such rumor-mongering. The only option for the EFF is to substantiate their allegation or withdraw their lies immediately,” says Dr. Molewa.

SANParks calls on all citizens to work in unison and refrain from making divisive remarks that undermine the national effort to combat wildlife crime.

Issued by:
SANParks Corportate Communications

Media enquiries:
William Mabasa
Acting Head of Communications, SANParks
Tel: 013 735 4363; Cell: 082 807 3919

Reynold “Rey” Thakhuli
GM: Media, PR & Stakeholder Relations, SANParks
Tel: 012 426 5203; Cell: 073 373 4999

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