Mpumalanga chief accused of being rhino poaching kingpin killed in apparent hit

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Chief Clyde Mnisi at his inauguration in October 2022.
Chief Clyde Mnisi at his inauguration in October 2022.
  • The chief of the Mnisi clan in Mpumalanga was gunned down on Sunday, allegedly by men travelling in a black BMW X5.
  • At the time of the murder, Mnisi and his driver were waiting for help after the vehicle got a puncture.
  • In 2018, Mnisi and five others were arrested for the illegal sale and procurement of rhino horn, corruption, and money laundering.

The chief of the Mnisi clan in Mpumalanga, who was also accused of being a kingpin in a massive rhino poaching syndicate, was gunned down in an apparent hit next to the Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport on Sunday evening.

Clyde Mnisi, 37, who was inaugurated as the traditional leader of the Mnisi clan in 2022, was travelling with his driver in a Toyota Avanza on Airport Road near White River when the vehicle got a puncture.

According to the police, Mnisi and his driver were waiting for assistance when a black BMW X5 allegedly stopped next to them.

It is alleged around five men wearing balaclavas and gloves and wielding "high-calibre rifles" got out of the BMW and approached the passenger side of the Avanza, where Mnisi was seated.

READ | 'These are the guys making millions' - Hawks after busting alleged rhino horn syndicate

"It is further reported that they then uttered some words to the chief before they began shooting," Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala said.

"The chief sustained multiple gunshot wounds and unfortunately succumbed to his injuries."

The driver was shot in the leg and received medical treatment for his injury.  

A case of murder and attempted murder has been opened. No arrests have been made yet.

Acting Mpumalanga police commissioner Major-General Zeph Mkhwanazi said a team of investigators were working around the clock to ensure the perpetrators were swiftly brought to book.


Mnisi was one of six people arrested in September 2018 and charged with theft, conspiracy to commit a crime, the illegal buying and selling of rhino horn, corruption, and money laundering. 

At the time, the Hawks said the six suspects were allegedly part of a sophisticated rhino horn trafficking syndicate that reportedly even ran its own intelligence operations with at least two police officers in its ranks.

READ | Rhino horn syndicate: Another Mpumalanga cop arrested

News24 reported the syndicate allegedly operated with almost military precision around the Kruger National Park, as well as private and state-owned reserves in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

It is alleged the syndicate moved rhino horns from protected areas through a logistical, communication and sales network that included government officials so they could stay undetected.

The horns were then allegedly sold at the highest price to markets in Gauteng before being distributed to markets in Southeast Asia.

Mnisi was meant to appear in the Mpumalanga High Court in Mbombela.

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