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05 November 2012 at 12:11 - Posted by Midrand

Abalone poachers, Western Cape police face off - SANEWS


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Abalone poachers in Hawston, Western Cape, claim the police have been targeting them for more than a year, according to a report on Monday.

The Cape Times reported that the fishing community was apparently regularly targeted by a police squad dubbed "die slaners" (the hitters).

The poachers blamed the police for the death of Steven Figaji, 19, a poacher who drowned at Breakfast Bay on Thursday during an operation aimed at clamping down on poaching.

A group of poachers went on the rampage on Saturday night, injuring a police officer and setting a K9 Unit building alight.

A police officer was injured and a K9 Unit building set alight by a "riotous" crowd in Hawston, Western Cape police said on Sunday.

On Saturday the car two suspected abalone poachers were driving overturned and landed in a ditch while police were chasing them, Captain Frederick van Wyk said.

"Members of the public saw what happened and... started to throw stones and petrol bombs at the police. There were also shots fired from the community side at the police members," Van Wyk said.

Several private vehicles, including one owned by the injured police officer, were set alight.

A 13-year-old boy named Xavier Spandiel was shot in both legs. Van Wyk said it was not known how he was wounded. The boy was taken to the Hermanus provincial hospital.

Residents burned tyres and placed rocks on the R43, forcing the closure of the road.

The police opened cases of arson, public violence and malicious damage to property.

The two men in the fleeing car, aged 21 and 27, were found with 55 abalone and 12 crayfish with a street value of about R2000. Both were arrested and charged with possession of abalone and crayfish.

SABC news reported on Sunday that the R43 between Hermanus and Botriver had been reopened.

Deputy provincial commissioner Peter Jacobs said the Independent Police Investigative Directorate would set up an office in Hawston on Monday so residents could report police brutality cases.

The meat of abalone – or perlemoen as it is known locally – is used for food, and the shells as ornaments and most lucratively and as a source of mother of pearl for jewellery. Its pearls have been collected for centuries.

Abalone has been identified as one of the many classes of organism threatened with extinction due to acidification of oceans from man-made carbon dioxide, as well as overfishing and poaching in areas where the population is low.

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