Demanding Justice for the People and the Rhino in KwaZulu, Natal, South Africa

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Dear Advocate Shamila Batohi, 

SUSPICIOUS RHINO POACHING AND RELATED HUMAN RIGHTS CRIMINAL MATTERS IN KWAZULU NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA 

As a concerned South African citizen, and a supporter of conservation, I hereby, on behalf of all the signatories, formally request the urgent assistance of your esteemed office.  

Our country has suffered through a tumultuous decade where many state run institutions have been compromised and have therefore, not been able to operate effectively.  

Most notably our crime prevention services and the prosecuting authorities have been severely compromised. As a result our constitutional rights have been adversely affected, we are not safe, we do not benefit from the protection of our police services and we cannot be assured of fair judicial process.

Criminal, self-serving individuals seem to have been operating with impunity. According to media reports and subsequent high-level investigations this seems especially obvious in our South African Police Services across various police departments and divisions. Similarly, according to media reports and investigations some of the people employed in our National Prosecuting Authority may have acted unlawfully and as a result have caused pain immense and suffering to citizens of South Africa. 

SUSPICIOUS RHINO POACHING RELATED CRIMINAL MATTERS 

In particular, I would like to bring your attention to the following matters that I believe need urgent follow up investigation. 

There have been many recorded incidents which seemingly relate to rhino poaching. They have been reported as cases of attempted rhino poaching or trespassing on land where there might be rhino. These suspicious incidents took place in KZN over a number of years circa 2010 - 2018.  

Criminal cases relating to these incidents have been opened in northern KwaZulu Natal, police case numbers have been recorded.  On closer inspection the details appear to be very unusual and comparitively speaking many are similar.  In many of these particular cases, the alleged poachers have lost their lives and very few suspects have ever faced conviction. I have been given a list of these suspicious SAPS case numbers.  

Whilst these particular incidents have received official police case numbers, many of these cases were never even enrolled in a court of law.  When questioned, representatives of the NPA have cited insufficient, non-existent evidence or corruption as being the reason.  In other words there has been no prosecutory process. 

The sheer number of these cases, the numerous fatalities and the frequent use of the 252A entrapment method drew the attention of the HAWKS Anti-Corruption Unit in Pretoria.  A high level official investigation into these suspicious matters was undertaken in 2015/2016.  I have been given the details of this investigation.  The investigation was never concluded, because “State Capture Investigations have taken precedence”.

 

THE DUMISANI GWALA MATTER 

Presently, one of most widely reported and most curious  rhino poaching related incidents in KwaZulu Natal, is the Dumisani Gwala matter.

According to numerous media reports, which have been circulated internationally, the notorious and the alleged KZN Rhino poaching syndicate leader, Dumisani Gwala, was “captured” in a series of traps will culminated in a “take-down” on the 18th of December 2014. 

Prior to the media reports, surrounding his capture, there is no mention of this man with regard to rhino poaching.  He also has no prior police record with regard to rhino poaching or illegal wildlife trading. You would be hard pressed not to think that this was a case of mistaken identity. 

The details of the “capture” were not supplied to the media by the South African Police but instead by Barend Lottering, owner of Nyathi APU and Simon Naylor who is the head of conservation at andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve and who is also one of the directors of the Munyawana Conservation Fund. 

They jointly stated, in very detailed media reports, with supplied images, that “the capture” took place after an eight-month undercover Police operation.  

Dumisani Gwala, they concluded is apparently responsible for 80% of the Rhino poaching that takes place in KZN.   

To give some context, according to official DEA records, 99 rhino were poached in KwaZulu Natal in 2014. We have not been able to find any evidence linking him or his co-accused to any of these cases.

Jamie Joseph, a South African blogger and founder of the Saving the Wild charity which is registered in New Zealand, was assigned, according to sources, by Nyathi APU to assist with the Dumisani Gwala matter.  Her media campaign started on the 28th January 2016.  

Joseph has informed her followers, on various social media platforms,  that ex-Policeman Jean Pierre Van Zyl Roux is the mastermind behind the investigation, capture and arrest of Dumisani Gwala, he is also involved with all the other cases that require the urgent attention of your office. 

Joseph has added the narrative, which was not according to the NPA, included in 2014 reports nor on the original police docket, but has been widely published in the media, that during the entrapment process, Gwala apparently tried to run over one of the arresting officers with his car.  

We have not been able to substantiate this information.  The information does not apparently appear on any official record at the time of his arrest.  The police were required to film the entrapment as per the pre-requisites of the 252A police trap.  

So we are hopeful that all the information that has been so widely published in the international media campaign has indeed been carefully vetted as it will of course be confirmed or denied in a court of law. 

The video evidence required by the laws that govern the sanctioning of the 252A entrapment, that resulted in the capture, will confirm what really took place at the capture scene and during all three of the traps that were set. 

Despite the eight-month prior investigation, according to the NPA, the official Police documents apparently state that Dumisani Gwala was charged with conspiracy to deal in rhino horn and that this misdemeanor allegedly took place during a South African Police reverse-sting operation. Clearly the eight-month investigation did not deliver sufficient evidence for an arrest. 

According to testimony given on the 20th and 21st June 2019, Van Zyl Roux involved two under cover agents from SAPS Crime Intelligence division in Pretoria to assist with the entrapment process of Gwala and the co-accused. 

Joseph has continually reported in the media that there was an attempted murder charge that was going to be added to the charge sheet.  According to NPA officials there is no record of an attempted murder charge in the original official police documents. Similarly when the dockets were presented at any of the bail hearings there was no mention of an attempted murder charge. 

Similarly, based upon the aforementioned official charges, which are allegedly recorded on all official Police records, Dumisani Gwala was granted bail of R10 000.00.  This bail amount was granted in a court of law by an experienced Magistrate with a Senior Prosecutor in attendance. 

An attempted murder charge was curiously added on the 24th April 2019 when the trial began. 

Furthermore, despite all the allegations, once again made in the media campaign by Lottering, Naylor and Joseph about of fleets of expensive cars and a mansion, according to the NPA and SAPS a single car belonging to Dumisani Gwala was returned to him on his successful bail application. 

At a High Court hearing in 2015, Gwala’s vehicle and that of his wife’s and a total combined sum of assets valued at R110 000.00 was confiscated. 

 

ALLEGATIONS OF A CORRUPT JUSTICE SYSTEM 

The most damaging allegations made in the media by Joseph and published abroad and in South Africa during the time period 2016 to date, are those alleging amongst other, that bribes have been paid to named, justice officials in order to keep Dumisani Gwala out of the courtroom and out of jail. South Africa’s reputation has been severely damaged. 

In January 2017, according to Joseph, she was finally able to prove these allegations when a witness contacted her via email.  In order to protect his identity she named him Fresh. She described in detail in a radio interview broadcast in New Zealand in October of 2017.  It has been stated in various media publications that Fresh’s evidence was checked by Van Zyl Roux and Lieutenant Colonel Jason McGray.  He was also apparently given a lie detector test. 

Fresh admitted, according to Joseph, that he was employed by Advocate Ngwenya during 2015 and the early part of 2016, that he was hired to pay Magistrate Ngcobo by Advocate Ngwenya in the rhino related matter between the state and Warrant Officer Christopher Gumbi. 

Fresh also admitted, according to Joseph, that he was hired to pay Magistrate Shandu by attorney Ms Linda in the rhino related matter between the state and Dumisani Gwala.

Based upon this tested evidence,  according to media reports, McGray recommended that Magistrate Shandu be recused.  This was disallowed. Fresh’s affidavit and the supporting affidavits by McGray, Joseph and Van Zyl Roux were also refused. Prosecutor Yuri Gangai was removed as prosecutor on the Gwala matter.  

Advocate Noko head of the NPA in KZN stated at the time,  in a media release that the evidence in Fresh’s affidavit was not conclusive. 

The allegations in Fresh’s affidavit are serious and as a result the Gwala matter has been moved from Mtubatuba Court to Ngwelezane Court and back again.  This has drawn out the matter which is very costly for the state and in fact for the accused.  The resulting ongoing media campaign has also negatively highlighted the judicial system in South Africa internationally.

McGray, a lead investigator in the enquiry of the  Magistrates Commission into Mr Eric Nzimande has according to media publications also suggested that there maybe a link between the named magistrates in the rhino matters and matters concerning Nzimande. However representatives of the Magistrates Commission have stated in writing that there is no evidence, yet, linking any rhino related matters to judicial officials in KZN. 

The allegations that have been made are serious and damaging to the reputations of the judicary and the members of Dumisani Gwala's legal team. 

We would very much like to have clarity on all these allegations. 

THE TRIAL OF DUMISANI GWALA 

We have been informed by two different legal teams that they are of the opinion that the state might have delayed proceedings with regarding providing evidence timeously.  Indeed, some of the video evidence required by the 252A was only delivered to the Gwala defense in late February 2019. Nearly three years after it was requested in writing.   The writer was present in court on the 29th January 2019 and privy to the various excuses provided by the state in this regard. 

The opposite has been reported in the media. 

We, politely ask, that the NPA overseas, monitors and if necessary expedites a streamlined, speedy judicial process in this matter. 

The trial of Dumisani Gwala finally commenced on the 24th April 2019.  Mr Aubrey Dlamini one of the co-accused was too ill to continue.  Mr Aubrey Dlamini passed away in May. The matter resumed on the 20th and 21st of June 2019 and it continued in August 2019. 

The trial will continue in October, the defense has asked for more outstanding evidence including the rhino horn and other,  and the official video recordings of these alleged transactions required by pre-requisites of the 252A to be made available to the court. 

Whilst Joseph has stated in the media that the court officials have received death threats.  We have not been able to confirm this allegation.

We have been present, on six separate occasions at Ngwelezane and Mtubatuba Courts  to hear this matter.  

There has never been a need for security of any kind.  We sincerely hope that these unsubstantiated allegations do not delay or disrupt this matter. 

 

IMPORTANT NOTE:

The author of this petition has received written threats by email and suffered intimidation on social media.  The issuer of the threats has made no attempt to disguise themselves. 

Despite opening a criminal case in two provinces in South Africa the intimidation continues on social media, this has been forwarded to the relevant authorities.

Failure to take the matter seriously in a court of law has also been reported to the Magistrate’s Commission. 

All details referred to in opening page of the petition have been handed to various divisions of the South African Police Service for safe keeping. 

Megan Carr

THANK YOU FOR SIGNING THE PETITION PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT IF YOU DO DECIDE TO COMMENT THAT YOUR COMMENTS ARE FREE OF RACIAL INUENDO OR HATE SPEECH.