Rhino protectors become killers - court

2014-11-12 19:52
Holland .375 rifle

Holland .375 rifle

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Nelspruit - Three police constables and an ex-corporal field ranger implicated in rhino poaching appeared in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Wednesday.

The constables, Arnold Mashele, Dennis Mkhonto and Morris Sehlabela and the field ranger, Phineas Dinda, were not asked to plead to charges of conspiracy to hunt rhino and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, a Sapa correspondent reported.

Mashele, Sehlabela and Dinda were arrested in May after a joint operation between the Hawks and national park officials. Mkhonto was arrested later.

According to national police spokespersonLt-Gen Solomon Makgale, after the park officials received a tip-off in May, they pulled over a marked Skukuza police bakkie.

Makgale said in a statement that upon further investigation a suspected poacher, armed with a .375 hunting rifle and rounds of ammunition, was found in the back of the vehicle.

He said the firearm, ammunition, a silencer and poaching equipment were seized.

Prosecutor Isbet Erwee on Wednesday asked for a postponement in order to supply the accused's defense with their case dockets.

All four would remain in custody.

White rhino

Magistrate Andre Geldenhuys postponed the case until 27 January for the dockets to be made available to the defence.

In an unrelated case three Mozambicans arrested minutes after a white rhino was killed in Lower Sabie in October appeared in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Wednesday.

Louis Zitha, Simon Lubisi and Saidi Alfredo Mboshini were not asked to plead to charges of poaching, a Sapa correspondent reported.

The State has accused the three of killing the rhino and exchanging fire with anti-poaching officers, resulting in the death of one suspected poacher.

On Wednesday, State prosecutor Isbet Erwee asked for the case to be postponed for a docket to be handed to the group's defence lawyers and also for two of them to make payment arrangements with their lawyers.

Read more on:    conservation  |  rhino poaching

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