Policemen granted bail in poaching case

MBOMBELA – Two police officers accused of rhino poaching were granted bail shortly before Christmas, after a 13-day bail hearing. Const Simanga Mnisi and Const Manguni Nyalunga and their alleged informant
Mr Bandile Gamede were granted bail of  R2 000 each in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court on December 21.

Magistrate Mr MJ Ngobeni did not consider them to be flight risks. The other three accused, Messrs Sakile Habile, Alex Mlambo and Syco Ngoma, were denied bail.

The defence for Nyalunga, Mr Sifiso Mabilane, said his client and Mnisi from Masoyi Police Station were only giving their co-accused a lift when they were apprehended. They were looking for a suspect named “Sifiso” in the Ngodwana area when they picked up their informant Gamede on November 19. Three young men carrying bags approached them for a ride and Nyalunga was told to get into the back of the police vehicle. They were pulled over by police and arrested in Mbombela for possession of rhino horns.

In her closing arguments, state prosecutor Ms Maria Munandi specified the main reason to deny bail was that the two policemen would be able to intimidate witnesses and access the information about the investigation on the police system.

Mabilane said the state’s case against his client was weak and his client was not a flight risk.

During the proceedings the Hawks revealed that a hunting rifle with a silencer was found in the police vehicle’s driver’s cab. Hawks investigating officer Capt Leroy Bruwer testified that they had received information about a rhino-poaching incident at a Waterval Boven farm and that a 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.”

Police also saw them climbing into the rear. “They left the farm, travelling at a high speed towards Mbombela,” he said.

On receiving the registration number, the flying squad spotted the bakkie and pulled it over near Mbombela Stadium. Both police officers got out and were identified after which the vehicle was searcehd by the flying-squad members. “Behind the rear passenger seat they found a brown hunting rifle as well as a silencer. None were in a police forensic bag but were placed just as they were behind the seat,” Bruwer 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.

In court, Bruwer also stated that Nyalunga was the only accused with no previous criminal cases against him. Mnisi had previously been investigated for four case dockets that had gone missing.

Bruwer added that the other accused had pending cases or convictions for various crimes, including a case of trespassing in the Kruger National Park, against them.

The case was postponed until February 14.

Read more here: Hunting rifle hidden under vehicle by poaching suspects

Tereasa Dias

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