Lucky break in rhino poaching case
On a farm close to Musina, forensic investigators are examining and looking for the carcasses of white rhinos.
Authorities are trying to find how many dead white rhinos are on the 4 000-hectare farm named Pragtig, owned by Dawie Groenewald.
They say each carcass is important in strengthening the case against the 11 accused who appeared in court yes-terday.
The rhinos were apparently bought and taken to the farm.
The case is the culmination of many hours of hard work.
It follows forensic investigators’ lucky break when one of the suspects pitched up in court to give his support to the 10 accused.
Marthinus Pronk was in the public galley of the Musina Magistrate’s Court yesterday, with relatives of the accused, when detectives spotted him and arrested him.
When proceedings began two hours later, Pronk had joined his alleged co-conspirators in the docket as accused number 11.
The other accused are Groenewald and his wife Sariette; Karel Toet, his wife Mariza and their business partner Manie du Plessis; Dewald Gouws; Nardus Rossouw; professional hunter Tielman Erasmus; Leon van der Merwe; and farmworker Paul Matomela.
Colonel Vishnu Naidoo, spokesman for the Hawks, said a multidepartmental team was working hard to arrest the remaining members of the alleged syndicate.
Yesterday, magistrate Errol Luiters granted the accused bail.
The supposed mastermind of the syndicate, Dawie Groenewald, was given R1 million bail, while his wife’s bail was put at R100 000.
Next in line was Modimolle vet Karel Toet, with bail of R50 000.
Seven others were given bail of R20 000. Matomela’s bail was set at R5 000.
Most of the accused appeared relaxed, smiling at family members in the gallery.
Their next appearance in court is scheduled for April 11.
In the meantime, the accused have to hand in their identity documents and passports. They are also not allowed to interfere with or trade in the 32 rhinos that are on Groenewald’s farm.
The alleged syndicate members also have to notify the investigating officer a week before if they want to leave Limpopo.
They were also warned not to interfere with the police investigation on the Groenewalds’ farm.
The accused are facing hundreds of charges, including assault, fraud, corruption, malicious damage to property, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and contravening the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act.
Meanwhile, in Modimolle, Eblockwatch’s Selomie Maritz welcomed the news of the arrests.
Maritz, who works on Eblockwatch’s anti-rhino-poaching initiative, had spent Rhino Day helping to relocate Nona, a black rhino that was shot seven times by poachers on Friday.
Two months earlier, she had been shot twice. Nona has been moved to a safe, undisclosed farm.
The white rhino is preferred by poachers because it has a bigger horn than a black rhino. Also, a black rhino costs about R1m, whereas a white rhino costs about a third of that.