Rhino poaching case starts
Musina – Eleven people, including two veterinarians, were brought into the Musina Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday to face charges related to rhino poaching.
Looking nervous and tired, the group stood silently, waiting for proceedings to start after a two-and-a-half-hour delay.
Most of the men were dressed in khaki shirts and denims. One of the two women was wearing a caftan, the other a polka dot top with black pants.
The police on Monday arrested nine people, including two veterinarians, apparently well-known in Modimolle, Limpopo, and who owned an animal clinic and a wildlife organisation involved in catching and transporting game.
The nine included the spouse of one of the veterinarians, a game farmer and his wife and a professional hunter. Two more people have since been arrested.
National police spokesperson Colonel Vishnu Naidoo said the veterinarians were believed to be the masterminds behind a rhino poaching syndicate.
Inside court, stone-faced family members of the accused waited silently for the case to start. They refused to talk to journalists.
Earlier, three photographers were detained for taking pictures of the accused while they were being loaded into a police van.
Sapa photographer Werner Beukes, Beeld photographer Herman Verwey and SABC cameraman Lewellyn Carstens were held for 45 minutes by the station commander before provincial authorities intervened and they were released.
“We were taking pictures while the suspects were being loaded into a police van when police officers told us we were not allowed to take pictures,” said Sapa photographer Werner Beukes.
“They took us to the station commander’s office where he told us we were not allowed to take pictures.
“They were pretty rough with one of the photographers; they literally dragged him in,” said Beukes.
He, Beeld photographer Herman Verwey and SABC cameraman Lewellyn Carstens were held for 45 minutes by the station commander, who did not give his name to them.
“He told us we were trespassing, even though we were standing outside the premises of the police station when we took the pictures. He kept on telling us that it was his police station and he was the only one who could decide who was allowed to take photos there.”
Beukes said another official, apparently from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), arrived after a while and tried to defuse the situation.
This official then had a separate conversation with the station commander.
NPA national spokesperson advocate Mthunzi Mhaga told Sapa that he had received a phone call from an SABC journalist to tell him that their cameraman had been detained.
“I got a call from them complaining and I requested the [acting] Hawks spokesperson, Colonel Vishnu Naidoo, to intervene and I’ve been advised by the prosecution that now they [the photographers] have been released,” said Mhaga.
Naidoo told Sapa that the provincial police intervened.
“They resolved whatever issues needed resolving,” said Naidoo, declining to give any more details.