Three men charged with allegedly poaching a rhino near Grahamstown for its massive horn are prepared to pay R35000 in bail between them on any condition.
This is according to advocate Terry Price, SC, who yesterday argued the bail appeal for Jabulani Ndlovu, 39, Forget Ndlovu, 36, and Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu.
He said Jabulani and Forget had indicated they could afford R15000 each, while Sikhumbuzo had indicated he could pay about R5000 bail.
Police allege they caught the three men – who are not related – in a chalet at Grahamstown’s Makana Resort last year with a 10.27kg freshly harvested rhino horn valued at close to R1-million.
Police also recovered a saw, a dart gun and M99 tranquilliser.
The police raid on the resort happened shortly after a white rhino bull was poached at nearby Buckland’s Game Reserve.
Several cellphones and SIM cards were also seized. The trio had been travelling in two rental cars.
Police have alleged the men are likely part of a large and sophisticated poaching syndicate and have hinted in court papers that they may be behind dozens of other rhino poaching incidents in the Eastern Cape and elsewhere.
The three men failed in their first bail bid last year before Grahamstown magistrate Ntsoki Moni.
Price argued there had been “many misdirections” by the magistrate leading to her decision to deny them bail.
He said while there was a strong case on paper, there was no evidence before court that the men were a flight risk or that they had – as the magistrate had found – any propensity to commit crimes. They all had clean records.
He said Moni had failed to even consider implementing strict bail conditions rather than denying them bail.
He said there was no evidence before court that the men were illegal immigrants, as claimed by the prosecution.
“They are prepared to adhere to any bail conditions.”
But senior state advocate Buks Coetzee said the court should not interfere in a lower court’s decision unless it was satisfied that the decision was wrong.
He said Moni’s contention the men had failed to show it was not in the interest of justice that they be released on bail had been correct.
Police Captain Morne Viljoen, of the endangered species unit in Jeffreys Bay, last year told the court that some 76 rhino had been poached in the province since 2009.
About 19 had been poached last year. This had placed the remaining national population of 21000 rhino under severe threat of extinction.
He alleged that 20 similar cases involving 40 rhino poached in the province revealed the three men had “been responsible for a number, if not all, these … incidents”.
He claimed they had been linked to these incidents via forensic ballistic comparison of tranquilliser darts found on the scenes where the rhino were poached.
Other evidence included tracing activity of their cellphones, and tracking vehicles rented by them during these poaching incidents.
Judge John Smith reserved judgment.
By Adrienne Carlisle, DispatchLIVE