The accused maintain that they did nothing wrong and do not understand why they were arrested.
MBOMBELA – The case against two hairdressers who stand accused of poaching a white rhino in the Nwanetsi area of the Kruger National Park (KNP) was postponed to June 9 on Tuesday. Mr Jeremano Thive (22) and Mr Andelius Mukwebe (21) maintained their innocence, claiming that the state’s evidence against them was untrue.
The two were arrested on January 19, 2013 after SAPS officials and SANParks rangers spotted the carcass of a white rhino during a helicopter flight. Rangers testified that they proceeded to investigate and used a tracking dog of the German malinois breed named Killer to assist them in tracking down the two suspects. Thive and Mukwebe were arrested and taken into custody. They face charges of contravening the Immigration Act, and three charges relevant to illegally entering the park and poaching.
The state’s case closed in January. Dog-training expert Mr Henry Holtzhausen, two game rangers who may not be named, regional ranger Mr Don English, Mr Frik Rossouw and Mr Ken Maggs from Environmental Crime Investigation and a pilot, Mr Grant Knight testified during the trial. Mr Juan de Beer of the Mpumalanga Tourism Agency also testified for the state and corroborated the rangers’ version of the accused’s arrest.
The accused’s legal representative, Mr Daniel Mabunda, says that his clients deny having poached any rhino. Both Thive and Mukwebe aver that they wanted to walk from Mozambique to Thembisa where they would work as hairdressers. They testified that neither of them knew what the Kruger National Park was prior to their arrest. They denied being tracked by a dog and both have testified that their peaceful walk in the bush was cut short when a police helicopter descended upon them. According to their testimonies, they were bundled into the helicopter, where a dog was waiting for them. The accused maintain that they did nothing wrong and did not understand why they were arrested.