Alleged rhino poachers at loggerheads

2014-09-26 00:00

TWO women at the heart of an alleged rhino poaching conspiracy in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands were at loggerheads when the trial started in Ladysmith yesterday.

Confidence Angel Mlambo (32) admitted she was involved in a plot to hunt rhinos in the Umsuluzi game reserve between Weenen and Colenso.

However, she maintains that her co-accused, Nokwanda Trendy Khumalo (22) instigated the plan — allegedly at the behest of Khumalo’s father “Mkulu” (Patrick Khumalo) who had “authority” over the Umsuluzi game reserve. “Nokwanda inquired from me if I knew anyone who wanted to buy rhino horns,” she said.

She said she set about finding someone to do so.

Khumalo, however, denied any knowledge of the plan to hunt rhinos, as well as a .303 hunting rifle with a telescopic sight, which was seized by police when the women were arrested on April 24 last year.

Mlambo claimed in her testimony that Khumalo was the person who possessed the rifle and produced it when they met up with a police agent, “Sipho”, who was posing as a buyer for rhino horn.

In a brief statement outlining her defence, Khumalo claimed that on the day of their arrest Mlambo had asked her to meet her. “I proceeded to the road where she was. I found her seated on the rocks. I also realised there was something covered in a blanket behind her between the rocks. I questioned her … that is when she informed me it is a fiream and she is there to meet Sipho,” said Khumalo.

The court heard evidence that “Sipho” was an agent from SA National Parks, who posed as a prospective rhino horn buyer.

The women put the firearm into the boot of his car and accompanied him to Lady­smith where they were arrested.

Jabulani Lukhela, Mlambo’s nephew, testified that Mlambo asked him — in Khumalo’s presence — if he knew of anyone who would buy rhino horn.

At their meeting, Mlambo allegedly showed him a rifle, and they discussed the fact that there were only two rounds of ammunition in the magazine and where more could be obtained.

Khumalo also asked how much rhino horn could be sold for and a sum of R500 000 was mentioned, he said.

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