‘Rhino saviour’ on poaching charge

2014-06-16 00:00

THE half-brother of the head of KZN’s most famous game reserve — and a leading anti-rhino poaching campaigner — will appear in court this week on rhino poaching charges.

Mbuso Ngubane, the half-brother of Jabulani Ngubane, manager of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, was arrested this month after allegedly transporting poachers to the border of privately owned Zulu Nyala Game Lodge in Hluhluwe.

The Witness has meanwhile established that Jabulani Ngubane has been questioned on the issue and cleared by the state-run Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.

Between 2011 and 2013 the conservation manager, who is seen as a rising star in the environmental organisation, personally led the organisation’s fight against poaching syndicates, as KZN’s first security intervention co-ordinator.

Three men, Mozambique citizen Ojne Masinga; Thulani Mduli from from Mqobakazi area; and Mbazwane, a resident of Musawenkosi Zikhali — will join Mbuso in the dock at the Hluhluwe Periodical Magistrate’s Court to apply for bail tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a counter charge of assault has been laid against four members of the anti-poaching team by the four accused. The state is expected to oppose bail.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation, which is led by the Hawks, have revealed to The Witness that “substantial evidence” was found in the possession of Mbuso, including incriminating photographs, an R1 rifle and an axe.

And a source alleged that even once Mbuso was arrested he persistently tried to “name drop” Jabulani in a bid to circumvent arrest.

While Jabulani referred all comments to EKZNW, he reportedly told the organisation that he had “very little” to do with his arrested brother.

EKZNW spokesperson Musa Mntambo said, “He told us he can’t control the life of his brother whom he shares a father with. Jabulani told us he hardly spent time with Mbuso and they were distant, barely talking to each other.”

Both Jabulani and Mbuso grew up in Mbazwane, although not in the same household.

“Jabulani was not involved in the arrest [of his half-brother] and is not directly part of the joint operations team tasked with investigating anti-rhino syndicates,” said Mntambo. “We will not be questioning Jabulani any further. We have accepted what he has told us about their relationship.” But investigators are still trying to piece together a profile on Mbuso and he has yet to give a statement.

In April 2011, he told The Witness the anti-rhino fight was an issue he was prepared to “put his life on the line for” and likened rhino poaching to cash-in-transit robberies. The SAPS report detailing the arrest states a joint operation was staged involving several units of the SAPS, EKZNW and private security staked out Zulu Nyala Game Lodge on June 3.

While monitoring the park, police saw men emerge from two suspicious vehicles along the fence line. One man was arrested in the park, another in the first vehicle and two other men, one of whom was Mbuso, in a second vehicle.

Recent figures have put rhino poaching incidents at over 40 in the province.

• jonathan.erasmus@witness

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