2 April 2013
President Jacob Zuma, as the commander-in-chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), has expressed his sincere condolences to the families of the five soldiers who died in a helicopter crash at the Kruger National Park on the weekend.
The SANDF helicopter had been on a scheduled aerial patrol of the park as part of Operation Rhino, which is aimed at stemming the scourge of rhino poaching in South Africa.
The tragedy occurred as the nation mourns the 13 soldiers who fell in Bangui in the Central African Republic last week.
“We certainly hope that investigations will shed light on the circumstances of the crash, but the whole country is saddened by the loss of our national servicemen on duty,” Zuma said.
“On behalf of government and the entire nation, we wish to express our sincere condolences to the families of these five soldiers and may their souls rest in peace.”
Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa and her deputy, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, together with the South African National Parks (SANParks) board, have also expressed their condolences to the families of the soldiers.
The ministry and SANParks Board said they supported the SA Air Force in determining the sequence of events that led to the fatal crash.
“We hope this sad event will not deter our men and women working tirelessly to protect our country’s rhino population against the ongoing scourge of poaching by marauding bandits,” the ministry said in a statement.
Of the 188 rhinos poached in South Africa since January, 135 were killed in the Kruger National Park.
The park remains the hardest hit by poaching, having lost 425 rhino to poachers during 2012.