McIntosh Polela

Durban - A probe into allegations that suspended Hawks spokesman, McIntosh Polela, had poached protected species without a permit are at an advanced stage.

A police source said on Tuesday that it could be a matter of days before Polela was charged for hunting at a KwaZulu-Natal nature reserve without a permit. If found guilty, he could face a heavy fine or a jail term.

Last month, Polela and a few hunting companions were allegedly caught by a Himeville farmer with a common reedbuck and a grey duiker. Both are protected species.

The farmer said the animals had been shot with a rifle, fitted with a silencer.

On Tuesday, he said he welcomed the developments in the case and was optimistic that justice would be served.

“At one stage I thought this whole mess would be swept under the carpet,” the farmer said. “I am glad the case is gaining momentum.”

When contacted Tuesday, Polela refused to comment on whether he had been interviewed by police, or what his status at work was.

He is suspended on an unrelated matter.

At the time, Polela said he had not known the buck was a protected species - or that he needed a permit to hunt it.

The hunt allegedly took place at The Swamp Nature Reserve in Himeville.

The common reedbuck is protected in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act and is regarded as a protected species and cannot be hunted.

According to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the hunting season has closed. It starts again on May 31 and runs until August 31.

KZN police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said the SAPS Pietermaritzburg stock theft unit was investigating Polela’s matter.

Questions around Polela’s fate with the Hawks, and whether he would face an internal disciplinary hearing, went unanswered by the provincial and national police media centres.

In a separate development, nine poachers were arrested in Melmoth on Friday for poaching buck.

According to Zwane, Melmoth police constables SP Shezi and GD Mbatha were conducting routine patrols in the KwaMagwaza area when they spotted a white bakkie with a canopy and became suspicious of its occupants.

The policemen tried to stop the bakkie, but it sped off and a chase ensued.

When the vehicle was stopped, the policemen said they found nine people, an axe, two shotguns, a pistol and several rounds of ammunition. These were seized.

Zwane said four dead buck were also found in the back of the bakkie.

The suspects appeared at Melmoth Magistrate’s Court on Friday on charges of possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, and poaching.

Seven of the suspects, aged 18 to 56, were remanded in custody and two minors were released into their parents’ custody.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesman, Musa Mntambo, warned that hunting buck without a permit was a criminal offence.

He appealed to people to secure permits from the district conservation offices before hunting.

Daily News