By Jamie Joseph
Smart people are starting to notice that I am writing a lot less these days, and yet there is a lot more rhino poaching stories in mainstream news. I really don’t care for having my name attached to stories, especially since I am such a target now. My focus is really just on getting the work done – on the ground – where I belong, and contributing behind the scenes to the collective so that journalism can communicate the real issues facing the rhino crisis. I have also finally starting to do interviews, leading into the trial of alleged rhino poaching kingpin Dumisani Gwala. Further below is a recap of the past few weeks.
But please be very aware that this investigative work will stop when the funding runs out, and that will happen very soon. If you would like to join our mission in exposing and eradicating corruption that is enabling poaching then please donate here. Unfortunately investigative journalism does not run on positive thinking, and we can’t keep complaining about the South African government if we’re not willing to support the few putting it all on the line to expose corruption.
I first began writing about the Gwala syndicate in January of this year, and for the first six months of this saga I was completely alone in exposing Gwala’s rhino killing spree, until finally in July police affidavits began to surface, confirming many of the facts in this organised crime case.
When Gwala was arrested back in December 2014, on charges of attempted murder and dealing in rhino horn, a spokesperson for the special operation stated that, “This man is the leader of KZN’s biggest rhino-poaching syndicate and about 80 percent of the horns in the province go through his hands.”
JAMIE JOSEPH – activist, conservationist and founder of Saving the Wild – reports from the trial of alleged KwaZulu-Natal rhino poaching kingpin Dumisani Gwala. Source: SA People
…but perhaps the most inspiring progress of all was to see today’s courthouse packed with supporters from the Inkatha Freedom Party. Inkatha, and particularly it’s leader, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, MP – who has a long history with conservation dating back to 1975 – have been avid supporters and have made many passionate pleas to government to save South Africa’s wildlife from the scourge and evils of poaching.
In a recent survey commissioned by WildAid, the results turned conventional conservation wisdom on its head. Their data show that South Africans of all races and backgrounds are extremely interested in wildlife and do care about the future of wild rhinos.
I never wanted this #ConvictGwalaRhinoKingpin campaign to turn into a ‘David & Goliath’ saga between myself and Gwala. If we are to take back Zululand, then it will be the Zulus that take back Zululand. And I hope, and I believe, that my role in all of this will start to diminish.
It was my mission to shine a spotlight on this “kingpin” trial, because Minister Molewa wouldn’t dare talk about Gwala in her quarterly DEA rhino briefings, and someone had to do it. But the press were there today, as they were at the last court appearance, and I believe because of the rapidly growing public support on this case, driven predominantly through social media, we are in a good space now. We are one step closer towards making history. Imagine, after ten years of carnage, the South African government finally convicts a rhino poaching kingpin.
What we need is a REVOLUTION.
I’ve been based at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) since the massacre took place on World Rhino Day. On Monday I was reunited with my awesome friend, rising global artist Toya Delazy, born Zulu Princess Latoya Buthelezi. As we roamed this great land memories of Toya’s childhood came flooding back to her, to a time when rhinos were wild and free, and that feeling of ‘being home’ tugged deep on her heartstrings.
Coming from the royal family, Toya says she was raised to always have respect for animals, dating back to the days of King Shaka Zulu. Says Toya, “Poaching steals from us all; these animal issues are also human issues. This week I was greeted by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife employees that have known me since I was just a few years old when I first started visiting the park, and their families depend on conservation. If we lose the rhinos the elephants are next, tourism economies will start to collapse, and these families will suffer. Zululand must unite, and then together WE CAN save the rhino.”
Read recent Saving the Wild exclusives…
Zulus pack out alleged rhino poaching kingpin trial – 19 September
#ConvictGwalaRhinoKingpin – Alleged rhino poaching kingpin goes to court – 5 September
Corruption in courts fuelling rhino poaching – 22 June
Rhino kingpin trial set for showdown – 27 May
Activist journalism can save the wild – 4 May
Thuli Madonsela to investigate corruption enabling poaching – 10 April
Rural communities are saving rhinos- 6 April