Alleged rhino poaching syndicate arrested at North West game reserve

2017-06-29 22:50
Madikwe Game Reserve field guide George Ithumelang Thutlwa, 31, was arrested by the SAPS Stock Theft Unit on Monday. (SAPS)

Madikwe Game Reserve field guide George Ithumelang Thutlwa, 31, was arrested by the SAPS Stock Theft Unit on Monday. (SAPS)

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

Zeerust - New details about a convicted rhino poacher, his syndicate of accomplices and their alleged inside source who allegedly showed them the locations of rhinos at an exclusive North West game reserve, emerged in a Zeerust courtroom this week.

The evidence emerged when three suspects, charged with illegal rhino poaching, appeared in the local magistrate's court.

So far, the case involves convicted rhino poacher Jethro Malema, 43, his accomplice and foreign national Alfonso Alberto Balate, and George Itumelang Thutlwa, 31, a field-guide at Madikwe Game Reserve.

In the meantime, further details around the case have unfolded, revealing that a former SAPS police officer - who is also a local community 'Kgosi' or headman in a nearby village - could also be arrested shortly for allegedly assisting the poachers, transporting them and supplying meals while they were in the bush.

The headman, who worked at the Nietverdiend police station, is out on bail for a case of stock-theft. He inherited the title of chief from his father.  

The SAPS would not confirm this due to the ongoing investigation.

According to reports, 16 rangers and Madikwe's anti-poaching unit began tracking Malema and Balate on Saturday night after finding their tracks following the spoor of several rhinos at the reserve. They are believed to have shot at least three rhinos, and on Monday, a helicopter was launched to search for and locate any wounded or dead rhino.

After the two suspects were located on Sunday, they were arrested by the SAPS’s Stock Theft Unit and Visible Policing Units. 

After showing their captors where their weapons and a bag of fresh clothing had been concealed, a K9 unit was called in.

Serial offender

Police confiscated a 303 hunting rifle fitted with a silencer, ammunition, a machete and cellphones as evidence.

Malema, whose rap sheet resembles a serial offender’s list of dodgy achievements, was convicted in Limpopo in 2014 for a 2012 case of illegal rhino poaching.

He was reportedly released early on parole, just 2 months ago after having served less than his eight-year sentence. His record also shows he is wanted for a 2011 case of housebreaking, and somehow managed to remain at large in connection with a 2009 case of motor-vehicle theft.

Balate is believed to be a foreign national from Mozambique.

Thutlwa was hauled in for questioning on Monday before being arrested on suspicion of supplying information to the poacher.

He is believed to have made a confession to a Zeerust magistrate on Tuesday before facing charges on Wednesday.

The case was postponed until July 10 when the accused are expected to apply for bail. Malema, Balate and Thutlwa have been remanded in custody.

Read more on:    zeerust  |  rhino poaching

Join the conversation! 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.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


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 network.


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.