The Protection Services arm of the Kruger National Park (KNP) staged an armed robbery at the Phabeni Gate on Tuesday at 7am as a routine exercise, reports the Lowvelder.
Skukuza SAPS station commander Captain Phineas Lubisi did not know about the operation beforehand. When Lowvelder contacted him, he was of the opinion that lives might have been endangered.
Warrant Officer Patrick Mabuye, however, was informed at the weekly security meeting at MAJOC of the proposed staged armed robbery and could ready his team to speedily react to the call to SAPS Skukuza.
“We had to be careful of the tourists and animals of course but managed to reach the gate at 7.29am. You can’t rush through the park,” said Mabuye.
No shots were fired, and there was no live ammunition, emphasised Mabuye.
The operation started at 7am at the rondawel where the reception is located at Phabeni and was over within 51 minutes, said Mabuye.
A member of the Protection Services acted as one of the alleged suspects trying to rob the reception staff. They were informed and played along.
“When we arrived one of the suspects was already staging the robbery. We conducted an interrogation and then waited for the park’s security to come and do their job. Security at the gate warned the tourists not to be afraid,” said Mabuye.
“We do an exercise like this from time to time to test our state of readiness in terms of our response plans in case of crime incidents occurring in the park,” said SANParks spokesperson William Mabasa.
He emphasised that there were no recent threats of such probable incidents in the KNP.
Mabasa said the management of Protection Services “is happy about their state of readiness”.
He explained that tourists were processed directly to the gate and not to reception. The operation was targeted at the reception area.
“Tourists were around but not involved in any way,” said Mabasa.
– Caxton News Service