The watchdog of South Africa has opened two cases of attempted murder following the disappearance of a Hout Bay fisherman during an anti-poaching operation on Saturday, August 11th.
Durick van Blerk, 26, was back from illegally caught crayfish near Cape Point out that the police intercepted his boat and shot the engine. Van Blerk was missing, while his two accomplices were arrested and later released on bail.
Moses Dlamini, a spokesperson for the Independent Police Investigations Directorate (IPID), confirmed that Van Blerk's henchmen had attempted murder during the weekend. According to various sources in Hout Bay, the two fishermen have claimed that Van Blerk was shot during the chase.
Photographs of Van Blerk's boat, made by residents of Hangberg who visited the arrested fishermen at the Table Bay police station, show bullet holes in the outboard and inflatable pontoons.
Provincial police spokesman sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana refused to answer questions about the incident, including whether the police had protocols for shooting at suspected poachers' fleets. "This office can not respond to an ongoing investigation," she said.
Anti-patrol patrols have been shot from the engines of poaching fishing on several occasions in the past. Patrols typically shoot ships to prevent suspects from fleeing, said Marcel Kroese, the former head of enforcement at the national fisheries authority.
"Usual precautions are verbal warnings, warning shots and then eventually shooting on the engine, only if there is an unobstructed view and no chance of people on the firing line," Kroese said. "You also have to take into account the sea conditions, the seriousness of the crime and the probable escape probabilities."
This is claimed to be the engine of the boat that Durick van Blerk was in. Photo delivered
After examining photos of the damaged boat, John Stupart, director of the African Defense Review, said: "It seems likely that these live rounds have been fired by a high-speed rifle."
The most likely alternative, he said, was that the police had used rubberized rounds at high speed that were "capable of injuring, even fatal," at a distance of 40 m or less.
"Firing these rounds from a boat at sea to another boat would be very dangerous for the occupants," Stupart said, consulting with two other analysts before commenting. "Firing live ammunition, if rounds were actually being used, on a small vessel with at least three people may constitute a disproportionate use of lethal force."
It was also possible that the police had shot the engine and pontoons after stopping
Believing that Van Blerk had been killed by the police, residents of the fishing community in Hangberg decided to leave the port of Hout Bay on 12 August. close, bombarding several buildings and petrol that bombed the home of a local fisherman's officer. The protests were resumed on 13 August, with 11 people, including five minors, arrested for public violence.
Hundreds of people in Hangberg receive income from abalone and crayfish poaching and support hundreds of more dependent people. Few fishermen have legal quotas that are sufficient to survive, and protests regularly crop up about fishing disputes.
A search for the missing body of Van Blerk, in which the NSRI was involved, a helicopter, police divers and members of the Hangberg community, had not been successful on 16 August. For a large part of the week, divers could not get into the water because of strong rises, said Roscoe Jacobs, a community leader who acted as spokesperson for the Blerk family.
"The focus of the family is still on finding him", Jacobs said. "They call people to stop speculating about what happened, because it does not help what they are going through at the moment."  From the perspective of the community, Jacobs added, "we need to be clear, what are the rules of engagement at sea? They can not have a blank check to do what they want. You can not just shoot for the sake of the shooting. "
Reissued from GroundUp