By Shannon Hopkins
Five alleged rhino poachers appeared in the KwaMsane Magistrate’s Court in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday for their formal bail application, police said.
“Sipho Patrick Mthembu (32), Tony Hansely (23), Bhekumuzi Comfort Gumede (27), Thulani Khumalo (24), and Nkosinathi Jobe (30), were arrested on June 13, 2015 at Zamimpilo Area, Mfekayi, in an intelligence driven operation,” spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said.
“Police pounced on the five suspects at about 19:00 at Zamimpilo Area, Mfekayi, while they were allegedly on their way to hunt rhino in the Umfolozi Game Reserve. Upon searching them, police recovered a .375 hunting rifle, six .375 cartridges, an axe, silencer and various rhino poaching paraphernalia. They were arrested and detained at KwaMsane police station.”
The arrest followed a tip-off that a gang of poaches from the Mfekayi area, near Mtubatuba, were planning to poach rhino in the Imfolozi area.
“The gang had opted to try their luck at Imfolozi after police visibility had been disrupting their illegal operations in the western shores of Isimangaliso Game Reserve,” Naidoo said.
The five made their first court appearance on June 15 and faced charges of conspiracy to hunt rhino, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. Police were searching for more suspects and have applied for a warrant arrest, believing there were others who were involved in rhino poaching in the area.
“Hansely, Khumalo, Jobe were granted bail of R5 000 each while repeat offenders Mthembu and Gumede were both denied bail. The case was postponed to July 28, 2015,” Naidoo said.