Rhino owners cry foul after poaching gang suspects get bail

2017-05-20 09:31
iStock

iStock

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Grahamstown - South Africa’s rhino security community has expressed outrage after a Grahamstown High Court judge granted bail to three of the country's most notorious rhino poaching suspects, the Ndlovu Gang, effectively releasing them from police custody.

This despite strong arguments from the State that the trio posed an immediate flight risk and a continued threat to rhino.

A month after hearing the group’s second bid for bail, in April, Judge JE Smith this week granted R15 000 bail each to Zimbabwean nationals Forget Ndlovu, 40, and Jabulani Ndlovu, 38 and man who claims to be a South African, Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu, 37.

News of the court’s decision immediately reverberated throughout South Africa’s rhino community, drawing angry reactions from rhino owners and anti-poaching experts who have been involved at the coal-face in the battle against rhino poaching.

The Ndlovu Gang had been incarcerated since their arrest in June 2016, when stock-theft unit officers pounced on them at chalet # 8, at the Makana Resort outside Grahamstown.

Smoking gun

Investigators found the trio literally holding the smoking gun, and a mother lode of other evidence that could see them locked up for more than 15 years.

It included the freshly-harvested horn of a white rhino bull that had been poached at the nearby Buckland’s Private Game Reserve, worth approximately R1.2 million. A darting rifle and drugs used to dart animals, various darts, saws and knives, camping gear and rations, as well as two rental cars and cell-phones, were removed as evidence.

The dart gun has since been forensically-linked to several incidents across the country in which darts and the lethal drug M99 were used.

Described as a highly organised poaching syndicate with access to scheduled wildlife darting chemicals and guns, the group allegedly travelled the country silently darting rhino with lethal, scheduled drugs, and removing their horns. 

All three had made several trips to Zimbabwe in recent years.

KwaZulu-Natal’s Project Rhino co-ordinator, Chris Galliers said: “In light of South Africa’s current rhino poaching situation, the court’s unfortunate decision is a lost opportunity to send a strong message to poachers and crime-syndicates responsible for killing our rhino.

 “Historically speaking, many suspects have been re-arrested for committing the same offences while out on bail, while others have simply skipped bail and disappeared.

Justice system slammed 

“Given the severity of the charges and the towers of solid evidence put forward by the State, the bail appeal should have been rejected outright by the High Court” he added.

Chair of the Private Rhino Owners Association, Pelham Jones, slammed the justice system.

“To learn that a hardened criminal group of this calibre has been allowed bail and released from custody, is unacceptable!

“We have in the past called similar situations to the National Prosecution Authority (NPA), and we find it bizarre and extremely alarming that foreign nationals with the risk profile these individuals have, and the ability to perpetuate further crimes, are given bail. This needs to be addressed urgently.’’

Their initial bail applications were dismissed by Grahamstown magistrate Ntsoki Moni in November 2016. 

In an affidavit, Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit detective Captain Mornay Visser said the men were the prime suspects in as many as 40 rhino killings in the Eastern Cape since 2009, as well as about 50 in KwaZulu-Natal, five in Limpopo and four in the Southern Cape.

Court documents reveal how the gang had allegedly used rental vehicles and how they visited targeted reserves as guests before killing rhino, as well as suspicions they used fake passports.

Moni denied their bail application and said they had also been linked to other incidents of rhino poaching, and that there was a warrant of arrest out for them in Limpopo. 

Last month, the Ndlovus' launched their second bid for bail, this time before the High Court 

In handing down judgment Judge JE Smith said:“The fact that the state had established a prima facie case against the appellants is only one of the factors that I am required to consider. I am also constrained to consider whether, insofar as there may be a flight risk, it is possible to effectively curtail it by setting strict conditions.

 “While the reasonable prospect of imprisonment and substantial monetary fines will serve as an incentive to the appellants to evade trial, having weighed up the appellants’ rights to liberty and the interests of justice, the appellants have established, on a balance of probabilities, that it will be in the interests of justice to release them on bail’  he said.                                                                                                                 

The Ndlovus were released on strict bail condition which include house arrest and they had to surrender their passports.



Read more on:    port elizabeth  |  zimbabwe  |  poaching  |  rhino poaching  |  southern africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
Watch: Investing in the future through child development

An investment of R32-million into 11 early childhood development centres is changing the future for children in the Northern Cape.

Partner Content
What all investors should know about index investing

Index-linked investments are growing fast in popularity globally, and are growing in size and complexity too.

/World
 

For the love of Corgis!

WATCH: 35 Corgi's to make your day! If they’re good enough for the Queen of England they’re good enough for us.

 
 

Paws

Can we communicate with our pets?
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Buying a puppy? Don’t get scammed!
WATCH: These funny animal videos will make you LOL!
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.