Healer admits to helping rhino poachers

2013-11-11 00:00

A 52-YEAR-OLD traditional healer, Bekhi Mthembu, who admitted taking part in a conspiracy to poach a rhino with the intention of selling its horn in January this year, is to pay an effective fine of R30 000 or serve three years in jail.

A further fine of R70 000 (or seven years’ imprisonment) was conditionally suspended by a magistrate at Ingwavuma last week.

In terms of a plea bargain negotiated by state advocate Yuri Gangai, Mthembu has also agreed to testify against anyone else that might be prosecuted in connection with the crime.

The role that Mthembu played in the conspiracy was to provide muthi, and perform a ritual to ensure a successful hunt and ensure the poachers got away undetected.

The court heard that one of the co-conspirators was in fact an undercover agent, Lieutenant-Colonel Tatia Moremi.

Mthembu said that in December 2012 he met a Mozambican, Josef Tamele, who told him that if they were to get hold of a rhino horn, they could make a lot of money. According to Mthembu, he introduced him to a person known as “Zakes” who claimed to have access to Phinda game reserve.

Tamele’s father and uncle were to provide a firearm to shoot the rhino.

On January 8, he met with them, as well as Moremi, and performed a ritual to protect them. He did not accompany them on the planned hunt.

The group encountered the police before they managed to reach any rhinos and Tamele was arrested. Mthembu was arrested later at home.

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