Poaching: No bail for Kruger Park staff

2012-07-12 21:44
Anti-poaching protester (File, Sapa

Anti-poaching protester (File, Sapa

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Pretoria - Four Kruger National Park employees accused of being part of a rhino poaching ring were denied bail by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday.

Judge Andre Louw dismissed the appeal by Duncan Mnisi, Tiyene Mabunda, Charles Mabunda and Doctor Mgwenyama against a previous decision by the White River Magistrate's Court to deny them bail.

Louw found that it would not be in the interest of justice to release them.

He said a petition with more than 1 000 signatures handed to the court in opposition of bail showed the extent of the public's outrage about rhino poaching.

The four were charged with malicious damage to property, theft and the illegal possession of an R1 rifle and ammunition, but the State said more charges were being investigated.

The charges relate to the illegal hunting of two white rhino bulls in the Pretoriuskop area of the Kruger National Park in February.

The four were arrested after tourists discovered the dehorned carcasses.

Mnisi and the two Mabundas were employed as tour and field guides, or rangers, while Mgwenyama worked as a traffic official in the park.

All four were suspended without pay.

Louw said the State had a strong case against the men, who faced long terms of imprisonment if they were convicted.

He said it could not be excluded that State witnesses, including gate guards, could be intimidated if the men were released on bail.

The crime had engendered a feeling of shock, and the public's trust in the justice system had to be taken into account.

Senior SA National Parks investigator Frik Rossouw said in an affidavit that Mnisi and the Mabundas were all implicated in the crime by their warning statements, which also implicated Mgwenyama.

An ammunition box, which was stained with blood which had been positively linked to that of a male white rhino, was found in Mgwenyama's private vehicle.

Mnisi was found in possession of R30 000 in cash.

They four did not act alone, but were involved with several other syndicate members, Rossouw said.

He said the men had killed the rhino for financial and personal gain rather than subsistence, as no meat had been cut from the carcasses.

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