Police obstruct Hawks rhino-poaching case
Two Hawks members were locked up in the cells with the accused.
8 hours ago
MBOMBELA – Police turned on the Hawks when it tried to charge two fellow officers with rhino poaching. This came to light during their bail application. It ran into its seventh day in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
During his cross-examination by defence attorney, Mr Vusi Sekgodi, Hawks investigating officer Capt Leroy Bruwer said he could not take the fingerprints and officially charged Const Simanga Mnisi and Const Manguni Nyalunga as the SAPS had refused to assist him.
“They refused to take them out of their cell so I could officially charge them,” Bruwer said. He said he and a fellow Hawks member were then locked up in the cells with the accused. “I banged on the walls for ages until someone came to help us,” he said. Sekgodi questioned him on why he had not informed the station commander about the situation. Bruwer replied that he could see it would have become violent so he informed the prosecutor. “We decided to wait to inform the court about the members obstructing my duties,” he said.
In the course of the application, it also came to light that one of the arrested constables had four prior criminal investigations against him for a range of alleged crimes.
In contrast to what the defence had claimed last week, that Mnisi and Nyalunga from Masoyi Police Station were only giving their co-accused a lift when they were apprehended on November 19, the Hawks revealed in court that a hunting rifle with a silencer had been found in the front part of the police vehicle.
The police officers are being charged alongside Messrs Bandile Gamede, Sakile Habile, Alex Mlambo and Syco Ngoma. Defence attorney Mr Sifiso Mabilane said his clients, Nyalunga and Mnisi, were looking for a suspect named “Sifiso” in the Ngodwana area when they picked up their informant Gamede.
Three young men carrying bags approached them for a ride and Nyalunga was told to get into the back of the police vehicle. According to Mabilane, Nyalunga was mortified and shocked when, on the way back to Mbombela, they were pulled over by police and arrested for possession of rhino horns. He said Nyalunga was also appalled about the conditions in prison, especially with the food they had been given. Mnisi said he was denied access to his family while in custody.
Read more here: Two policemen and four others in court for rhino poaching
Bruwer testified that they had received information about a rhino-poaching incident at a Waterval Boven farm, and that an SAPS vehicle would pick up the suspects.
“A double-cab police bakkie arrived, the vehicle stopped next to the specific farm and the driver and passenger exited it,” he said. According to Bruwer, they observed three people approaching the vehicle carrying bags.
“One rifle was placed in the front of the bakkie,” he said. Police also saw them climbing into the rear. “They left the farm travelling at high speed towards Mbombela,” he said. The registration of the vehicle was provided to the flying squad, and the bakkie was stopped by its members near Mbombela Stadium.
Both police officers got out the vehicle and were identified and flying-squad members searched it.
“Behind the rear passenger seat they found a brown hunting rifle as well as a silencer. None were in a police forensic bag, they were placed just as they were behind the seat,” he said. They also found ammunition in the back of the vehicle.
“Two rhino horns were found in the bag. It was not complete horns, just the base of what was left when rhino are dehorned.” He added that an ear and tail were also discovered as well as two large knives. Bruwer said Ngoma said in his statement to police that he had gone hunting for wild pigs. They saw a rhino and shot the animal in the head. He contacted an inyanga, a traditional healer, who asked him to cut off the ears and tail. According to his statement, they asked the driver of the double-cab for a lift.
Bruwer also stated in court that Nyalunga was the only accused with no previous criminal cases against him. Mnisi had previously been investigated for two robberies, a theft and the possession of an illegal firearm. According to Bruwer, the dockets in all four cases had gone missing.
He added that the other accused had pending cases or convictions for various crimes, including a case of trespassing in the Kruger National Park, against their names.
The bail application continues in court today.http://lowvelder.co.za/366278/police-ob ... hing-case/