I wanted to heal babies, not harm rhinos - alleged poacher

2016-06-08 14:48

Mbombela - A herbalist accused of killing and dehorning a rhino in the Kruger National Park has testified that he only entered the park to get muthi for sick infants.

Simon Kubhayi, 33, pleaded not guilty to theft of a rhino horn, illegal possession of a firearm and illegal possession of ammunition when he appeared in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Tuesday afternoon.

He said he left his village, Clara Trust, outside White River, early in the morning and arrived at the park around 15:00 on December 10, 2011, to look for muthi.

He claimed that, when he found none in the bushes next to the park’s fence, he climbed over to dig for plants inside the park. When night fell, he climbed into a tree.

"The next day, when I had just started digging, I heard the gunshots," he said.

A ranger found him hiding under a shrub.  

"After I had told him I was digging for muthi, a second ranger came and shot me in my leg while I lay on the ground. I know nothing about a rhino horn and the firearm. I was not involved in the hunting of rhino. I only went to dig for muthi so I could heal some infants," he said.

He said four other rangers arrived and began assaulting him and stepping on his legs. A helicopter then arrived and took him to an ambulance. He was taken to the Skukuza police station to make a statement.

"I sold the muthi to sangomas and elderly people during pension payouts. I sometimes travel to sell in Johannesburg. I was not in the company of two other suspects reportedly seen with me in the park. I did not carry a firearm, except the pick which I used for digging, and the bag," he said.

The case was postponed to June 23.

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