Sus­pected rhino poach­ers cheat death, deny be­ing part of poach­ing ploy

Observer on Saturday - - News - By Sandile Nkam­bule

Three sus­pected rhino poach­ers who have been ar­rested by the po­lice for al­legedly poach­ing a rhino at Hlane Royal Game Re­serve have de­nied be­ing part of a poach­ing ploy or­ches­trated by a game ranger there.

The three Stan­ley Nh­lakalufu of South Africa, Isaac Mkha­bela and Muzi Dlamini, both from Swazi­land, con­firm knowl­edge of a ploy or­ches­trated by the game ranger, one Fana Mbatha based at Hlane to be part of a deal to poach a rhino but de­nied tak­ing part in the al­leged poach­ing which saw two poach­ers be­ing shot and killed by rangers and the po­lice.

The three have since filed an ur­gent bail ap­pli­ca­tion at the High Court fol­low­ing their ar­rest by the Tsha­neni po­lice after be­ing charged with five counts of con­tra­ven­ing the Game Act and the Arms and Am­mu­ni­tion Act.

They are rep­re­sented by lawyer Machawe Sit­hole in the mat­ter which is be­fore High Court Judge Sipho Nkosi.

Ac­cord­ing to the charge sheet, they are al­leged to have while at Hlane at­tempted to poach a rhino, thus con­tra­ven­ing the Game Act and they are fur­ther charged with con­tra­ven­ing the Arms and Am­mu­ni­tion Act in that they were al­legedly found in il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of a Hol­land 375High Range ri­fle with a grinded se­rial num­ber and 13 live rounds of am­mu­ni­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the first ac­cused Nh­lakalufu, Mbatha and one Sipho Mh­langa knew each other and he (Nh­lakalufu) and the two Mkha­bela and Dlamini had to join in the deal after be­ing in­formed by Mh­langa.

“We then later met the said Mbatha who gave us as­sur­ance as to how the plan will be ex­e­cuted and the ranger also told us he had keys to the gates lead­ing to where the rhi­nos were, but on the day of the al­leged at­tempt to poach, I and the two ap­pli­cants were not part of the plan as Mkha­bela re­fused to have his ve­hi­cle regis­tered HYD 266 MP used after we sus­pected Mbatha of trap­ping us,” he stated in his af­fi­davit. He fur­ther sub­mit­ted that true to their fears and sus­pi­cion, when Sipho Mh­langa drove with two oth­ers on the day of the al­leged poach­ing, the two were shot and killed by rangers to­gether with the po­lice when they got in to the Hlane Game Park. Nh­lakalufu sub­mit­ted that he heard of a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent in which Mbatha tried to trap some other al­leged poach­ers who were even­tu­ally killed.

“I sub­mit that this has been a clear case of a failed trap by the game ranger to­gether with the po­lice as Sipho Mh­langa in­formed me that they were shot whilst in­side the mo­tor ve­hi­cle they were driv­ing in,” Nh­lakaluku sub­mit­ted.

He fur­ther sub­mit­ted that the charges pressed against them were only brought to cover up the un­law­ful­ness in the shoot­ings which saw the two be­ing gunned down and that should he and the other two ap­pli­cants been part of those who were in the car, they should not have been spared from the shoot­ing as they would have been killed.

They sub­mit­ted that dur­ing trial they will plead not guilty to the charges they are fac­ing and are ready to plead their case dur­ing the trial set for the Simunye Mag­is­trate’s Court which was sup­posed to have com­menced on Au­gust 22, 2017. How­ever, in­stead of the trial re­sum­ing, he sub­mit­ted that they were served with an amended charge sheet in which a charge of at­tempted mur­der was in­cluded, ar­gu­ing that this was a de­lib­er­ate poly by the Crown to oust the Mag­is­trate’s Court ju­ris­dic­tion in or­der for them to lan­guish in jail for a lengthy pe­riod be­fore their trial.

“Even though I re­side in South Africa, there is noth­ing to fear to war­rant that I may ab­scond trial. I am ready for the trial and will not in­ter­fere with the Crown’s wit­nesses, more so be­cause I do not even known them,” Nh­lakalufu sub­mit­ted. Mean­while, the two other ap­pli­cants Mkha­bela and Dlamini, sup­ported Nh­lakalufu’s af­fi­davit and sub­mit­ted that if ad­mit­ted to bail they un­der­take not to jeop­ar­dise the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice and pub­lic or­der.

They stated that this mat­ter is ur­gent by virtue of the fact that it touches on their lib­erty and that they are still in­no­cent, adding that they do not even known when their trail date would be, noth­ing that their con­tin­ued in­car­cer­a­tion is prej­u­di­cial, both to their con­sti­tu­tional right and health.

The cir­cum­stances of this mat­ter, ac­cord­ing to the ap­pli­cants, war­rants that this mat­ter be heard of ur­gency as they have demon­strated above.

Judge Nkosi post­poned the mat­ter to Thurs­day next week for ar­gu­ments by both the Crown and the de­fence coun­sel

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