10 New African December 1998
Col. Pieter Lategan discusses an operation with his team paraphernalia. A common ploy is inviting a dealer in ivory or rhino horn to meet “the boss” for tea on his luxurious estate, or to use the scales there to weigh their ivory prior to purchasing. One ESPU officer said, “W hen we b r in g them in here at n ig h t they’re impressed. Once we get them on the premises — we’ve got them.”
Most of the unit’s 40 odd officers were out in the field conducting investigations or undercover operations and several officers were out on the weapons range. A number of the ESPU officers are combat veterans of South Africa’s elite military units universally acknowledged as some of the toughest, best trained, combat experienced soldiers in the world. All white South African males were required to serve a minimum of two years in the South African Defence Force (SADF). ESPU agents have participated in numerous gun battles as policemen.
Steve, a world class extreme scuba diver had previously served with the K o ev o e t , an elite police counter terrorist unit which carried out military combat operations in South West Africa (Namibia).