More than 100 rhino horns were stolen from this strongroom at the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency. Photo: Supplied

Mombela - The lawyer representing one of two people accused of stealing rhino horns from the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency on Monday accused police of forcing his client into signing a confession.

Lawyer Sfiso Mabilane told a Sapa correspondent the matter was delayed to 2pm because one of the accused, not his client, needed medical attention after allegedly being assaulted after his arrest.

“He was made to sign a written confession which the police came with. It was complete and only needed his signature.”

Mabilane said his client was arrested at a beer hall in Kanyamazane, outside Mbombela, early Saturday morning.

The brother of the other accused, who is in hospital, compared the arrest to a hijacking.

The man, who asked not to be named, said his brother had borrowed his car on Friday morning and was arrested while travelling between Hazyview and White River.

“He was subjected to a heavy beating which lasted for a long time. He was made to confess that he knows where the rhino horns were. After denying knowing anything about the horns, he was beaten until he then lied that he knew where the horns were buried.”

The man claimed his brother was taken to an area where he was forced to dig a hole to search for the horns, but found nothing.

“That is why they have taken him to a doctor now because they fear the court will see what they did to him.”

Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko denied the man was assaulted, but asked for time to consult provincial police.

“You know when suspects have been arrested they will do anything to try shift the focus of the case,” he said. - Sapa