A Jooste War:2

Is the appointment of Major General Johan Jooste ‘the Sunni Awakening’ moment, when the tide turned in South Africa’s fight against rhino poachers?

Major General Johan Jooste, now aged 62, had served in both the current SANDF (South African National Defence Force) and its SADF (South African Defence Force) predecessor, having been involved in various campaigns across southern Africa during his thirty five years active service which included as an infantry officer as well as commanding light, motorized, mechanized and para-infantry units and combat groupings.

Since 2006 Jooste had been Director International Business Development BAE Systems Land Systems South Africa before his appointment last December as Commanding Officer Special Projects for SANParks, czar of all anti-poaching in South Africa’s parks.

So far, there is no sign of an equivalent of an Iraq-style ‘Awakening’ turnaround, with the opposite taking place: rhino mortality statistics show that since January 188 rhinos have been killed (135 in the Kruger park) compared to 158 in the equivalent period last year.

The inexorable rise in rhino deaths in South Africa has now reached a point where there is increasing speculation of a ‘point of no return’ for rhinos there, the date of destiny variously described as between three to ten years when demand (deaths) outstrips supply (births) unsustainably.

In an examination of Jooste’s speech when taking on his new post two words stand out: ‘war’ and ‘criminals’, with the former by implication taking on a military-insurgency identity in contrast to the latter referencing policing.

However, ‘classic’ interpretations of counter-insurgency, from TE Lawrence to the contemporary United States Counterinsurgency Field Manual (2006) like to draw a line, however oblique, between counter-insurgency and policing which revolves around the precise calibration of the use of force and legality.

The former predicates an elastic attitude to violence in the end justifying the means whereas this is not sanctioned – or supposed to be – in the latter, given that it is not only the law that confines police forces but also the need to maintain the support of the population.

Furthermore within the ‘New Wars’ debate about the identity and motivation of modern conflicts, Mary Kaldor has found that ‘new wars’ tend to be mutual enterprises rather than a contest of wills. This understanding takes into account corrupting and sometimes violent activities of internal and trans-national non-state actors that can erode sovereign state powers and severely reduce national and regional security: here the line between crime and insurgency is often undefined, thin or even non- existant; indeed, while Manwaring has identified drug gangs as providers of shadow governance through the accumulation of power and profits, he links third-generation gangs to fourth-generation warfare as part of ‘a new urban insurgency’.

Therefore, in that context the poaching of rhinos as a motivating force for power and profits and by extension as a conduit of social insecurity can be seen as significant. Though the phrase ‘rhino wars’ might seem touched by hyperbole since rhino poaching globally causes negligible loss of life compared to other categories of homicide, the significance of ‘rhino wars’ lies in highlighting to the wider world and conservation lobby the intractable problem of rhino poaching being a demonstration of a state’s weakness both in terms of security and commitment to the conservation of its natural heritage. Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre.

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This entry was posted in Africa, Conservation, Illegal Wildlife Trade, Rhinos, South Africa. Bookmark the permalink.

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