Anti­poach­ing cop fired

Of­fi­cer plans to ap­peal dis­missal, al­leges charges against him were un­founded

The Witness - - NEWS - TA­NIA BROUGHTON

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.”

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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”.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

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”.

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