Highly controversial allegations made by South African opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), regarding extrajudicial behavior by South African National Parks (SANParks), raises a number of important questions about the country’s ongoing struggle against poaching.

SANParks stands accused of indiscriminately killing suspected poachers and dumping the bodies in unmarked graves. Something that the national body has vehemently denied. Exactly who is alleged to have said what is not entirely clear, as Mr. Cyril Chuene (a senior member within the Mpumpalanga provincial EFF structures), claims that the party had made no such comments.

Whilst de facto and de jure ‘shoot to kill’ policies have been adopted as a means of combating poaching in a number of other Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, this is not the case in South Africa. At its core, this decision is based on principles enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Namely, that everyone has the right to life; and, that everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person. As such, according to law, anti-poaching rangers have no more powers than a private citizen. They may only use as much force as is reasonable (and proportionate) when seeking to detain a suspected poacher or defend themselves.

Now, whether or not it is right to take a life in the act of saving another (wild)life is debatable. Not least because any attempts at applying such a diktat fail to account for incidents of mistaken identity, the loss of potential intelligence gathering opportunities, as well as the difficulty in evidencing causality over longer and longer periods of time. Moreover, our notion of ‘right’ versus ‘wrong’ is not only highly subjective, but is nothing more than a social construct. The wildlife at the heart of this issue certainly have no use for or understanding of morals.

Perhaps, then, it may be more appropriate to consider the question in terms of fairness? This can be understood in a number of ways: an equitable outcome, impartiality, reasonable in the circumstances and so on. Therefore, based on an objective assessment of risk versus reward and knowledge of the status quo on the part of all role players, is it fair that lives are forfeit when 'rules' are broken? That was, after all, the Code of the West.

Whichever side of the fence (or sticky patch of grey area), that ones falls - the only certainty in this debate is that we find ourselves in a chaotic situation. One characterized by greed, corruption, money and violence. One that has no simple answers.