Judgement day for Rhino poaching accused
It’s judgment day for the three men accused of poaching 13 Eastern Cape rhinos in what has proved to be one of the biggest rhino poaching cases in the province to date.
Following a mammoth trial, Judge Jeremy Pickering began giving judgment at 9.30am to a packed court. The accused Jabulani Ndlovu, 40, Forget Ndlovu, 37, and Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu, 38 looked tense and uncomfortable sitting in the dock.
Behind them was a hostile public gallery packed with dozens of environmentalists, game farm owners, and khaki-clad game rangers and members of private anti-poaching units.
Outside the court protestors left dozens of posters objecting to the vicious rhino poaching which had decimated rhino populations across the Eastern Cape and the rest of the country. “Jail not bail; Justice for rhinos” and “10 years = 7000 plus rhinos killed”, read some of the posters.
Pickering had to first read out the more than 50 charges and alternative charges the three men faced in relation to the poaching of 13 rhino across the province.
The judgment is likely to take most of the day to read before the judge reaches the bottom line of whether or not the men are guilty.
At the core of the state’s case is the evidence seized in a raid of the three men’s chalet at the Makana holiday resort in Makahanda in June 2016. They were caught red-handed in the raid with a 10.27kg freshly harvested rhino horn valued at R1-million, a bloody saw, .22 dart gun and tranquiliser darts, M99 tranquiliser, cell phones and sim cards.
DNA evidence has linked both the blood on the saw and the horn to a magnificent white rhino named Campbell which had been poached the day before from the nearby Bucklands Game reserve.
From that one raid, the state has used what it seized to weave together a complex web of circumstantial evidence involving novel ballistic evidence from the dart gun, cell phone usage patterns, and car hire and movement patterns, to link the three men to 12 other rhino poaching cases with almost identical modus operandi.
Pickering will have to deal with all the complex evidence in his judgment before making his finding.