SUS­PECT RHINO POACH­ERS’ TRIAL SET FOR NOVEM­BER

Game Park’s Jubela Reilly amongst wit­nesses

Swazi Observer - - NATIONAL NEWS - By SandileNkam­bule

FOL­LOW­ING a pre-trial con­fer­ence held at the High Court two months ago, the trial of the four sus­pect rhino poach­ers in­clud­ing a South African Po­lice Ser­vice (SAPS) of­fi­cer has now been set for Novem­ber 19.

The trial has been al­lo­cated three days be­gin­ning Novem­ber 19 through to 21.

The crown has lined up nine wit­nesses for the case.

Ac­cord­ing to the sum­mons ad­dressed to the wit­nesses, they are com­manded to lay aside all and sin­gu­lar busi­ness and ex­cuses and ap­pear per­son­ally be­fore the High Court of Eswa­tini on the three days set at 0900 hours to tes­tify all and sin­gu­lar those things they know con­cern­ing the in­dict­ment of the sus­pects Stan­ley Nh­lakalufu (SAPS) Muzi Dlamini (Swazi) Sipho Mh­langa (Swazi) and Isaac Mkha­bela (South African).

This means that the three will know their fate soon as they are still lan­guish­ing in jail.

Op­posed

Fol­low­ing their ad­mis­sion to bail fixed at E50 000, the crown filed an ap­peal where the crown rep­re­sented by Patrick Mkhatjwa stated that the court aquo erred in law in re­fus­ing to hear ev­i­dence viva voce to clar­ify is­sues that were in dis­pute as it had op­posed the bail ap­pli­ca­tion by the four.

The crown fur­ther stated in its ap­peal that the court aquo erred in ad­mit­ting the four sus­pects to bail.

In its op­pos­ing pa­pers dur­ing the bail ap­pli­ca­tion, the crown had sub­mit­ted that the four were a flight risk with two of them be­ing South African na­tion­als.

High Court Judge Sipho Nkosi or­dered that they pay E5 000 in cash each and E45 000 each in a form of a surety. Judge Nkosi at­tached strin­gent con­di­tions to the bail and amongst them is that they are to re­port to the near­est po­lice on a daily ba­sis pend­ing their trial at the High Court.

The crown had ini­tially op­posed the bail ap­pli­ca­tion filed by the court stat­ing that they are a flight risk.

The four are fac­ing a to­tal of 14 counts which were al­legedly com­mit­ted dur­ing the at­tempted poach­ing at Hlane Game Park.

The main charge is that of con­tra­ven­ing the Game Act in that they al­legedly en­tered the game park and at­tempted to poach the rhino.

Ad­di­tional charges of mur­der and con­tra­ven­ing the Pre­ven­tion of Cor­rup­tion Act amongst oth­ers were added by the crown.

Ac­cord­ing to De­tec­tive Sergeant Bheki Sha­bangu of Simunye Po­lice Sta­tion, in his an­swer­ing af­fi­davit, in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­vealed that the mas­ter­mind in the rhino poach­ing deal was the fourth ac­cused Mh­langa who is al­leged to have ap­proached the Gamer Ranger Fana Mbatha and or­ches­trated the plan to poach the rhino.

Sha­bangu stated his in­ves­ti­ga­tions fur­ther re­vealed that Mbatha was called by Mh­langa and en­quired if the coast was clear on the day of the poach­ing and Mbatha replied to the af­fir­ma­tive and the team of poach­ers, in­volv­ing Mh­langa and two Mozam­bi­can na­tional who died dur­ing the in­ci­dent drove into the game park to ex­e­cute the poach­ing.

Pa­trolling

They drove in mo­tor ve­hi­cle regis­tered DSD 389 CM and Mh­langa was the one driv­ing be­cause he had knowl­edge of the map at Hlane Royal Game Park as a lo­cal res­i­dent and knew that there were no locked gates save for a no en­try sig­nage re­served for mem­bers of the pub­lic.

At around 1am a mo­tor ve­hi­cle was no­ticed in­side the game park and de­tec­tive Sha­bangu who was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the sus­pected poach­ing re­alised that the poach­ers had been able to en­ter with­out be­ing no­ticed us­ing a route not per­mit­ted to the pub­lic.

Rangers who were pa­trolling on foot ac­cord­ing to Sha­bangu tried to stop the poach­ers’ ve­hi­cle but they did not heed to the call but in­stead opened fire to the di­rec­tion of the rangers on pa­trol re­sult­ing in a cross fire be­tween the poach­ers and the rangers in­clud­ing Jubela who was part of them.

The mem­bers of the pa­trolling team are said to have bravely ad­vanced to­wards the poach­ers’ mo­tor ve­hi­cle only to find that one of the poach­ers had been shot and a search en­sued as they had no­ticed that there was more than one oc­cu­pant in the ve­hi­cle.

Found in the ve­hi­cle was an empty car­tridge, a mag­a­zine, loaded firearm with 13 live rounds of am­mu­ni­tion, knives, si­lencer, axe and bags. The search team was able find an­other poacher with the as­sis­tance of snif­fer dogs and both the poach­ers found shot were al­ready dead.

Look­out

“We re­ceived a 999 Po­lice Emer­gency line re­port from a man who iden­ti­fied him­self as Sipho Mh­langa who asked that the po­lice as­sist in con­vey­ing him to hos­pi­tal and stated that he would be found at Hlane, in­deed we pro­ceeded to the spot where he di­rected us and we rushed him to Good Shep­herd Hos­pi­tal,” Sha­bangu stated.

Mh­langa and an­other man iden­ti­fied as Mand­lanti Sha­bangu were ap­pre­hended through the use of snif­fer dogs.

Be­cause of the in­for­ma­tion he had de­tec­tive Sha­bangu stated that he called an­other pa­trolling mo­tor ve­hi­cle and in­formed the po­lice of­fi­cers to be on the look­out as there were two mo­tor ve­hi­cles used in the poach­ing and the other ve­hi­cle was a Toy­ota Corolla regis­tered HDY 266 MP.

De­tec­tive Sha­bangu stated in his pa­pers that in­deed the ve­hi­cle was found be­ing driven by Isaac Mkha­bela and or­dered that the ve­hi­cle and its oc­cu­pants be driven to Simunye Po­lice Sta­tion to­gether with pass­ports of the de­ceased Lucky Mand­lati Sha­bangu and Castigo Jaime Zu­cula as well as those of Nh­lakalufu and Mkha­bela. The shoot­ing of the pa­trolling team ac­cord­ing to Sha­bangu was law­ful and not a cover up as ar­gued by the ap­pli­cants in the bail ap­pli­ca­tion.

The list of wit­nesses

James Jubela Reil­ley Fana Vusi Mbatha De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Mfana­si­bili Dlamini De­tec­tive Con­sta­ble Mfanawem­phi Gwebu Mandla Jame­son Mh­langa Themba Malang­wane Nkosi­nathi Malindzisa De­tec­tive Sergeant Ab­ner Sha­bangu De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Vin­cent Mbingo

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