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Kruger National Park rangers remanded in custody after being arrested for allegedly working with poachers

A northern white rhino, only three of its kind left in the world, moves in an enclosed and constantly protected perimeter ahead of the Giants Club Summit of African leaders and others on tackling poaching of elephants and rhinos, Ol Pejeta conservancy near the town of Nanyuki, Laikipia County, Kenya, April 28, 2016. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

A northern white rhino, only three of its kind left in the world, moves in an enclosed and constantly protected perimeter ahead of the Giants Club Summit of African leaders and others on tackling poaching of elephants and rhinos, Ol Pejeta conservancy near the town of Nanyuki, Laikipia County, Kenya, April 28, 2016. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

Published Apr 26, 2022

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Pretoria – Kruger National Park field rangers – Daniel Chikwa Maluleke, 60, and Solly Ubisi, 56, were remanded in custody by the Skukuza Magistrate’s Court when they appeared on Monday, charged with corruption, money laundering and fraud linked to wildlife trafficking.

Hawks’ provincial spokesperson in Mpumalanga, Captain Dineo Lucy Sekgotodi said the duo was arrested on Saturday afternoon at Skukuza.

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“The suspects were arrested by the Mpumalanga-based Hawks' serious corruption investigation team assisted by the Skukuza stock theft and endangered species unit during Operation Blood Orange,” Sekgotodi said.

“The arrest follows a comprehensive investigation which included their financial affairs. It is alleged that the suspects provided tactical information to rhino poaching syndicates in exchange for large sums of money.”

Two field rangers in the Kruger National Park were remanded in custody by the Skukuza Magistrate’s Court after they were arrested for allegedly sharing tactical information with rhino poaching syndicates in exchange for large sums of money. Photo: Supplied/Hawks

Maluleke and Ubisi were remanded in custody until the May 4 for formal bail application.

Meanwhile, provincial head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) in Mpumalanga, Major-General Zodwa Mokoena has commended the multidisciplinary investigation. He requested community members with any information which can assist in the ongoing investigation to contact the Hawks investigating officer, Colonel Danie Hall on 071 481 3281.

On Friday, the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Mpumalanga police said four alleged rhino poachers arrested in two separate incidents at the Kruger National Park on April 18 and 19 were remanded in custody during their court appearance.

Brigadier Selvy Mohlala said field rangers spotted some human footprints which signalled possible poachers inside the vast park.

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Two field rangers in the Kruger National Park were remanded in custody by the Skukuza Magistrate’s Court after they were arrested for allegedly sharing tactical information with rhino poaching syndicates in exchange for large sums of money. Photo: Supplied/Hawks

“The rangers followed the tracks with the assistance of a tracker dog and managed to corner two male suspects. Police at Skukuza were notified as such and upon their arrival at the scene of crime, the two men were arrested and charged for possession of an unlicensed firearm with ammunition and more charges may be added as the investigation continues.

“The pair was found with some items in their possession, which included a hunting rifle with its serial numbers filed-off, eight live ammunition, as well as an axe. The suspects were identified as Raydon Zitha, aged 24 and Ernesto Zitha, aged 27. The investigation also revealed that the two men are Mozambican nationals and had entered South Africa illegally hence they are faced with a charge of contravention of the Immigration Act of South Africa.”

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In the second incident, field rangers who were posted at Tshokwane Section of the Kruger National Park, spotted some human footprints in the area and then followed the tracks with the help of a tracker dog where they too managed to arrest two men who were found in possession of a hunting rifle, four live ammunition and an axe.

“Skukuza police were once again summoned and upon their arrival at the scene, they arrested the two men and charged them for possession of an unlicensed firearm with ammunition and more charges could be added as the investigation proceeds.

“The suspects were identified as Maxiyi Hlungwana, 33, and Khensani Chauke, 26. The probe so far revealed that the two suspects are originally from Mozambique and had illegally entered South Africa hence a charge of contravention of the Immigration Act of South Africa was added against them,” Mohlala said.

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The case against Hlungwana and Chauke was postponed to May 4 and the duo was remanded in custody.

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