Observer on Saturday - - News -

Three of the sus­pected Rhino poachers have filed an ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion for bail at the High Court and deny be­ing part of a poach­ing syn­di­cate at Hlane Game Park.

The three Stan­ley Nh­lakalufu a South Africa po­lice of­fi­cer, Isaac Mkha­bela (South African) and Muzi Dlamini (Swazi) 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 that of 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 375 High Range Ri­fle with a grinded se­rial num­ber and 13 live rounds of am­mu­ni­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the first ac­cused, Nh­lakalufu of South Africa, Mbatha the Game Ranger 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 used 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 and 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 dead 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 ven­ti­late their de­fence when the trial was set at the Simunye Mag­is­trate Court which was sup­posed to have com­menced on Au­gust 22.


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 with 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 for 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 know when their trial date would be and their con­tin­ued in­car­cer­a­tion is prej­u­di­cial both to their con­sti­tu­tional right and health.

The cir­cum­stances of this mat­ter, ac­cord­ing to the ap­pli­cants, war­rants that it must be heard of ur­gency as they have demon­strated the com­pelling cir­cum­stances that ex­ist to sup­port an or­der for bail.

Judge Nkosi post­poned the mat­ter to Mon­day in or­der for the Crown which is op­pos­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion to give oral ev­i­dence as Crown Coun­sel Macebo Nx­u­malo is to lead the ranger Mbatha in ev­i­dence.

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