KwaZulu-Natal has prioritised rhino poaching as one of the crimes that will receive focussed attention. The majority of these incidents occur in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. It is for this reason that the South African Police Services has partnered with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to fight rhino poaching. Members of the SAPS Provincial Tracking Team, Operational Response Services and Detective Services together with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Zap-Wing conducted a five day operation from 11 December to 16 December 2013. The operation focused on the Jozini, Ndumo and Manguzi areas. The aim of the operation was to arrest suspects who are linked to Rhino Poaching, seize all poaching related exhibits and to also arrest those who provide a market for Rhino poachers.
The members started their operation in the Manguzi area at a place called Mphondweni where they arrested Dumisani Mthembu (28) who was found in possession of an unlicensed 303 rifle, a calibre which is commonly used in rhino poaching. Dumisani Mthembu was arrested in September 2013 in a rhino poaching matter but the case was withdrawn against him. When he appeared in the KwaNgwanase Magistrate Court he was remanded in custody and the case was postponed to 19 December 2013 for a bail hearing. The following day the team moved to the home of a well known traditional healer in Mbambanana. The members recovered a rifle and a 38-year-old suspect was arrested for the unlawful possession of a firearm.
The focus shifted to the Skhemelele area where a 54-year-old local businessman’s home was searched. He is suspected to have links to a poaching syndicate. The members searched the house and recovered a .38 special revolver with its serial number filed off as well as six live rounds of ammunition. The members also seized a licensed shotgun because the suspect did not have a licence to possess it. During the arrest police discovered that the suspect was out on bail on a murder case. The team then moved on to eManguzi where they arrested a 48-year-old suspect who is also suspected to be linked to a poaching syndicate. When the suspect’s residence was searched police found hippo tusk and elephant bone which he is not supposed to be in possession of. Another local traditional healer was also arrested in the Ndumo area after police found rhino horn, python skin, elephant skin, hippo skin, buffalo horn and wildebeest tail at his home, all of which he is not supposed to be in possession of. All the arrested suspects are appearing in the KwaNgwanase Magistrates’ Court today.
The Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni congratulated the team of the successes achieved. “It is very important that we deal with these crimes by conducting such multidisciplinary operations as police alone cannot win this battle. We continue to hold such operations in future to dismantle syndicates that trade in our endangered species,” she said.