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Durban - The attack on Hluhluwe farmer Peter-John Hassard, who was shot in the stomach last month, may have been an attempted hit by rhino poachers, his father believes.
Peter Hassard, who farms with his son, said on Tuesday he was present during a meeting with the police when an informer named people involved in fighting rhino poaching, including Peter-John, who were on a “hit list”.
The younger Hassard, who is in his mid-thirties, was in an induced coma at a hospital in Richards Bay and had undergone surgery twice on his liver, his father said on Tuesday.
“He will be in a coma for six weeks. He cannot move because that is the only way his liver can reconstruct,” he said.
“Unfortunately, he also picked up pneumonia, but the specialists are positive that he will be fine.”
He said Peter-John headed the Anti-Rhino Poaching Trust in Zululand and was involved in anti-crime and community projects.
On the day he was shot Peter-John heard screams coming from the farmworkers’ compound on his game farm at 5am.
His friend Casper Badenhorst said the workers were being held hostage and robbed by an armed gang.
On Tuesday, Badenhorst said, he was aware there was speculation that the attack was related to rhino poaching.
When Hassard drove towards the compound, the gang stopped him. There was a scuffle for a gun and the farmer was overpowered and shot.
The robbers ran off with the farmworkers’ cellphones and electrical appliances.
Hassard sr, the former president of the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union, told The Mercury that the gang intended to kill his son because he chaired the anti-poaching trust.
“I gave the police three names and four contact numbers that I also got from informers. But the police are yet to make any arrests,” he said.
“This could have been a murder case. I thought high-ranking police officers would be deployed here because this case has a link to rhino poaching.”
Since January, Hassard said, he had sold all of his 11 rhino after two had been poached and several attempts had been made to dehorn the others.
“I have one rhino left and that one has been sold too.”
A senior policeman, based in Hluhluwe, said farmers were upset about rhino poaching and several meetings had been held.
“We are investigating all the links to this shooting, including poaching,” he said.
Police spokesman Thulani Zwane did not answer detailed questions.
No arrests have been made.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesman Musa Mntambo said game rangers often flew over the Hassards’ game farm when they patrolled.