Antipoaching cop fired
Officer plans to appeal dismissal, alleges charges against him were unfounded
ONE of South Africa’s top antirhino poaching cops has been fired on allegedly “trumpedup charges” and is now unemployed and looking for a job.
“It is appalling … the whole thing is a circus,” Warrant Officer JP van ZylRoux’s attorney Jacques Botha told The Witness.
After 29 years in the police force, the latter 10 years in the Endangered Species Investigation Section of the Hawks, most of it as a “team leader” working undercover in game reserves in KwaZuluNatal, Van ZylRoux will pack up his office today.
He declined to comment yesterday, but a colleague said: “He is devastated. He cannot believe this has happened to him after all his hard work and dedication. He knows that in a perfect world he would never have been convicted on this rubbish.”
Van ZylRoux and his team have been responsible for nabbing more than 70 rhino poachers — including alleged poaching kingpin Dumisani Gwala — for which they have received local and international recognition.
He was pulled from the beat two years ago, and since then rhino poaching in the province has spiked from 116 that year to 162 last year, and this year, to date, 205.
At that time he was told he was under investigation for alleged shooting of poachers.
In a previous interview, Botha said the poachers were all shot by members of the Special Task Force “while armed, resisting arrest and shooting back and in circumstances where they were caught redhanded in game reserves”.
“There was no case … my client did not shoot anyone dead.
“He once shot a gun out of the hand of one poacher and arrested the suspect,” Botha said.
“The matter went nowhere and it appears there was a decision not to prosecute.”
Botha said he believed the matter was “rooted in the shooting of a poacher purportedly linked to a very highranking ANC politician”.
In March this year Van ZylRoux was served with a notice to appear before a disciplinary inquiry relating to allegations he had failed to hand over a docket to Anti Corruption Unit investigators, that private firearms were found in his office and that through his conduct he had put the SAPS into “disrepute and embarrassment”.
In spite of getting permission to represent his client at the hearing, Botha was kicked out after he read a plea statement in which he claimed the charges arose out of an “ulterior motive on the part of certain elements with the ranks of employer [SAPS] of which the ultimate aim is to either terminate or curtail my success with respect to antipoaching and related corrup tion activities”.
The hearing chairperson ruled that the charges were not serious and thus Van ZylRoux was not entitled to private attorney representation.
Botha said: “My client’s allegations regarding a conspiracy were now substantiated, it was now so obvious. I placed it on record that I had obviously become a thorn in their sides, the conviction and dismissal of my client was now a foregone conclusion, they were a thinlydisguised tagteam to convict my client and evict him from the SAPS.”
In June this year, Van ZylRoux was convicted of all but the failure to hand over the docket charge and dismissed.
“They gave us no reasons. We did an internal appeal [to the head office] pointing out all the irregularities and abuses, including bias and collusion between the presiding officer and the prosecutor. But on Monday they informed him that his appeal had failed. Again they gave no proper reasons,” Botha said.
Van ZylRoux intends taking his dismissal on appeal to the public service bargaining council and, if he loses there, to the labour court. This could take years.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Malaudzi said the matter had been finalised and “the due processes followed”.
Warrant Officer JP van ZylRoux, one of South Africa’s top antirhino poaching cops, has been fired on what are alleged to be “trumpedup charges”.