Alleged rhino poaching Kingpin, Petrus "Mr Big" Mabuza. Picture: Saving The Wild

DURBAN - AN ALLEGED rhino poaching kingpin was arrested this week. Police swooped on three of his properties in Mpumalanga, seizing firearms, high-calibre ammunition, identity documents and bank cards.

Petrus Mabuza, 54, known as “Mr Big”, and 21-year-old Nozwelo Mahumane, a Unisa student, were arrested in a sting led by the Hawks (Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation) on Tuesday.

Environmental activist Jamie Joseph, the director of Saving the Wild, lauded the arrests.

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“The battle for justice begins now. An astute businessman like Mabuza, who is known as Mr Big in poaching circles, does not wield such power without help from people in high places,” she said.

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said the pair appeared briefly in the Hazyview Magistrate’s Court on Thursday. He said they were charged with contraventions of the Firearms Control Act, conspiracy to commit crime and various Credit Act contraventions.

Members of the Hawks together with Counter Intelligence the Special Task Force the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory and SanParks conducted the operation, she said.

“The two are also accused of trafficking rhino horns in Mpumalanga. Mabuza was remanded in custody and Mahumane given R20000 bail.”

Joseph said the organisation had been gathering intelligence for months on the activities of Mabuza’s alleged syndicate and had provided the information to the Hawks.

“We will monitor the proceedings as we did in the case of the alleged rhino kingpin of Zululand, Dumisane Gwala, with the trial expected to finally start in the coming weeks after more than 20 delays.”

Welcoming the Hawks’ success, Joseph claimed Mabuza’s alleged poaching operations centred largely on the Kruger National Park but had since infiltrated KZN, mainly the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve.

“Mabuza rents out vehicles and rifles to prospective rhino poachers who then sell the horns to him. He also allegedly acts as a middleman by buying from other poachers.”

In October, Saving the Wild published the Blood Rhino Blacklist exposé that lifted the lid on an alleged syndicate of magistrates and prosecutors, who had pocketed bribes from people allegedly involved in poaching.

SUNDAY TRIBUNE