Justice for Rhinos: An open letter to SA Deputy Minister of Justice and KZN Regional Court President
AN OPEN LETTER TO SOUTH AFRICA’S DEPUTY MINISTER OF JUSTICE, JOHN JEFFERY,
AND KWAZULU-NATAL REGIONAL COURT PRESIDENT, ERIC NZIMANDE
I am the founder of Saving the Wild, and the guardian of the ‘blood rhino blacklist’. This is no secret, and I have already exposed two magistrates and two defense attorneys I have claimed are working for the ‘Gwala Syndicate’ headed up by the alleged rhino poaching kingpin of Zululand, Dumisani Gwala. Since Gwala’s arrest in December 2014 for dealing in rhino horn and attempted murder of a police officer, there has been a slew of delays, at least 16 delays since the start of 2016 when I began attending court appearances, and on 9 October the state will bring forward an application for the recusal of Magistrate Shandu. The Magistrates Commission, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and senior members of police are all aware, and have been aware for a very long time, that I am in possession of reliable unpublished evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, that this case is a cesspit of corruption.
Once Magistrate Shandu is out of the picture, who will be next? The answer, and justice, is in your hands. Currently, it is up to the both of you to decide who will be the next magistrate to take the bench. Never in the decade history of South Africa’s bloody rhino crisis has a kingpin ever been convicted. Why is that? Why is the conviction rate so ashamedly low for rhino poachers? Exactly why is the system failing us?
Let’s begin with two of Gwala’s defense attorneys, the original – Mr ZW Ngwenya, and his current, Miss Mpume Linda. My reliable sources that pass these two defense attorneys in the hallways has brought the following to my attention:
Both Ngwenya and Linda were appointed acting magistrates – by your recommendation Regional Court President Nzimande, and your approval, Deputy Minister Jeffery.
According to various sources close to Mr Ngwenya, he has a history of drinking and driving mishaps, and it is alleged that his current driver is Jabulani Ngomozulu, known among informer and police circles as being a rhino poacher with links to Gwala. As for Miss Linda, I reserve comment until after 9 October when she appears in court with her client, Dumisani Gwala.
As far as their acting magistrate posts are concerned, over a period of many recent years, they failed drastically to meet their commitments. As you are both aware, acting magistrates are not meant to take on the role of defense attorney while in their post – and not only did both Ngwenya and Linda continue to break this rule, they were even absent from the bench at times because they felt it was more important to represent rhino poachers and kingpins. Here are a few examples:
Mr Ngwenya acted as a defense attorney in front of Magistrate D. Ngcobo when I am certain he was supposed to be an acting magistrate in Pietermaritzburg. Mr Ngcobo was the first magistrate in the Gwala case I exposed, and you will see from various cases I have presented that when these two men are in a room together, and Ngwenya is representing rhino poachers, the poachers miraculously get off with petty fines. This didn’t happen a couple times, this happened many times – and perhaps most bizarre of all was the case of Warrant Officer Christopher Gumbi.
In January 2015, Warrant Officer Christopher Gumbi of the Jozini Crime Intelligence unit was arrested near Ubombo after allegedly pointing a weapon at two undercover police agents. The agents were posing as poachers and carrying ‘sting’ rhino horns, which Gumbi allegedly took from them. He then fled in an unmarked police vehicle carrying fake registration plates. According to a statement from the South African Police Service, “The suspect was charged for armed robbery, possession of rhino horn and defeating the ends of justice.”
Warrant Officer Gumbi’s defense attorney was Ngwenya and he was granted R500 (US$37) bail by Magistrate Mkhwanazi. Gumbi was later acquitted of all charges by Magistrate Ngcobo who claimed the police fabricated the charges. Gumbi was also later acquitted in the police departmental hearing and continues to work for the Jozini Crime Intelligence unit.
Now I know for a fact that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) wanted to take this case on review, but it was squashed, like so many other cases. Why? Who is protecting Gumbi? Who is protecting Ngcobo? Or is Ngwenya the deal maker? I already have these answers, but it is up to both of you to work with the facts and ensure that laws are acting as a deterrent.
Mr Jeffery, I would not be surprised if you have been lured into this web of corruption, without your knowing. You count on the people that report to you that they are doing a good job, that the magistrates they recommend, are fit for the job. Thus, it must have come as a shock to you when you discovered Regional Court President, Mr Nzimande, was under investigation for a cash and sex scandal.
According to an article that appeared on News24 in September last year:
Despite being accused of taking hard cash and sexual favours in exchange for giving a magistrate a job, one of the country’s most senior magistrates remains serving in his post.
City Press ’ sister newspaper, Rapport, can reveal that investigators are asking for permission to lay charges against one of the country’s nine regional court presidents in terms of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act (Precca).
Eric Nzimande, the regional court president of KwaZulu-Natal, has remained in his post despite the fact that a complaint against him was laid more than a year ago.
Nzimande frequently serves as an acting judge in the high court. He stands accused of offering a female magistrate a job in exchange for cash and other alleged favours.
Godfrey Ramoroka, secretary of the Magistrates’ Commission, confirmed that there was an investigation into Nzimande…
Mr Jeffery, with so many accusations of corruption still up in the air, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for you to appoint the next magistrate in the Gwala case? According to reliable sources, Miss Linda, Gwala’s current defense attorney, has a close relationship with Mr Nzimande – and it was Mr Nzimande that recommended you appoint her as an acting magistrate. I can only imagine that you are not happy with her performance, and the decision you made to appoint her. Please, moving forward, can we make things right, as best we can.
Mr Jeffery, on behalf of the people of South Africa that are counting on you to save what little wildlife we have left, we are asking you to appoint a magistrate in the Gwala case that you are absolutely certain cannot be bribed.
And please, this case needs to be moved out of Zululand, where Gwala yields so much power that he’s still out there telling police officers he will never stop killing rhinos. Gwala thinks he is untouchable, and so far he has been untouchable; arrested many times, but never convicted as the dockets seem to mysteriously go missing and cases are withdrawn. These magistrates and lawyers have allowed him to make a mockery of our courts.
You have the power to end the circus. You have the power to save our wild heritage. In this war on greed, how far are you willing to go to protect that which is priceless?
Saving the Wild
There are only 3000 black rhinos left in the wild. Photo credit: Thomas D. Mangelsen
#ConvictGwalaRhinoKingpin – The long road to justice…
Sunday Times: Rhino horn accused ‘protected by bribery’ – 23 July 2017
Minister Molewa’s response to alleged rhino poaching kingpin – 23 November 2016
National Geographic: Justice for Rhinos – When will it come? – 20 October 2016
Zulus pack out alleged rhino poaching kingpin trial – 19 September 2016
Corruption in courts fuelling rhino poaching – 22 June 2016
Rhino kingpin trial set for showdown – 27 May 2016
Activist journalism can save the wild – 4 May 2016
Thuli Madonsela to investigate corruption enabling poaching – 10 April 2016
Rural communities are saving rhinos– 6 April 2016
Alleged rhino poaching kingpin and the magistrate that keeps him out of jail – 28 January 2016