Bongani Bingwa speaks to Kathi Lynn Austin, Executive Director of Conflict Awareness and Arms Trafficking investigator
Not much is known about small arms trafficking, a global industry worth billions of dollars that feeds into many criminal syndicates. One woman has been tracking the dangerous network of illegal weapons for over 20 years … and her recent three-year investigation has revealed a huge network of illegal firearms that supply poachers with guns in the Kruger.
From left, a rifle with a silencer confiscated from a poacher, rhino horns seized from poachers being burnt in Mozambique, and a rhino’s head from which the horn has been hacked off. Pictures courtesy of Carte Blanche and TBG Archive
In September 2014, I travelled to an air force base on the outskirts of Pretoria to attend the biennial Africa Aerospace and Defence expo, Africa’s biggest arms show and South Africa’s top-grossing event. A side theme of the arms trade fair was antipoaching efforts. I was there first to see for myself the cutting-edge weaponry and technology that was being marketed by the world’s leading arms companies for use in Africa’s so-called “poaching wars”, and second, to meet rhino protectors serving on the frontlines so I could learn about the poachers’ guns.
As I made my way through hangar-sized exhibition halls and cavernou...