Zululand black rhino
THE Magistrate presiding over the case of alleged rhino poaching kingpin, Dumisani Gwala, is facing recusal, amid damning allegations he accepted bribes to prolong the case.
KZN Director of Public Prosecutions, Moipone Noko previously maintained there was not enough evidence for the recusal, but has now reversed that decision and has allowed the application for the recusal of Magistrate K Shandu, to take place next week Wednesday at the Ngwelezane Regional Court.
This followed the removal of the case’s State advocate, Yuri Gangai, amid reports he was on the verge of bringing forward the application for the recusal of Magistrate Shandu.Noko previously argued that there are several other experienced prosecutors in the province also capable of dealing with the Gwala case, further noting it was not cost-effective to have a prosecutor travel from Durban to Zululand to deal with the case.
However, after recently having met with senior police members and being informed of investigative findings relating to the Gwala case, Noko has given the nod for the application to be put forward.
The ZO previously reported that Jamie Joseph of Saving the Wild had threatened her legal team would take Noko’s decision to the High Court if nothing was done.’There have been several cases against Gwala before, but the cases had either been withdrawn, or the dockets have suspiciously gone missing,’ Joseph told the ZO.
‘This recusal application is the closest we have come to seeing justice prevail in what has been a slew of delays over a three year period.
‘All the while, rhino poaching is out of control in Zululand, and it’s imperative that the person with the gavel is on the right side of justice.’
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Pieces of the puzzle
Joseph recently revealed that an informant, who claims to be the nephew of ZW Ngwenya, the original defence attorney in the Gwala case, came forward alleging that his uncle paid bribes to Magistrate Shandu to prolong the case.
Ngwenya’s nephew, who Joseph calls ‘Fresh,’ made a sworn police affidavit – which the ZO has seen – in February and was further successfully subjected to a polygraph test in March.
Shandu is alleged to be among a number of corrupt officials whose names were exposed in the ‘blood rhino blacklist’, a shocking exposé released by Joseph in October, which reveals an alleged syndicate of magistrates and lawyers protecting not only rhino poachers and kingpins, but also murderers and rapists.
Top cop back in action
Meanwhile the ZO can confirm that former team leader of Endangered Species Investigation Section of the Hawks, JP van Zyl-Roux, has been appointed to head up the Wildlife Investigations Unit for Saving the Wild.
Speaking to the ZO yesterday (Wednesday), an upbeat van Zyl-Roux, noted his optimism in moving forward with the Gwala case.
‘I am glad we are finally making progress, I just hope this case can continue without interference from other stakeholders so that justice can prevail,’ he told the ZO.
While with the Hawks, Van Zyl-Roux and his team were responsible for nabbing more than 70 rhino poachers – including alleged poaching kingpin Dumisani Gwala – for which they had received local and international recognition.
After he was pulled from the beat in 2015, when he was under investigation for allegedly shooting poachers, rhino poaching in the province spiked from 116 that year to 162 last year, and this year to date, 205.
Gwala, together with his co-accused, Aubrey Dlamini and Wiseman Makeba, faces a combined 10 charges relating to the illegal purchase and possession of rhino horn and resisting arrest.
As it stands, the trial against Gwala and his co-accused has been set down for May 2018 – nearly three and a half years after their initial arrests.