Cop Arrested With Links To Rhino Horn Syndicate

Poached rhino horns lying in the grass.
Rhino horns.

A Mpumalanga police constable with links to a syndicate allegedly behind “massive trafficking” of poached rhino horns was arrested on Thursday after evading arrest for two days, the Hawks have confirmed.

This after six other suspects, mostly current and former police officers, were arrested in Mpumalanga on Tuesday, News24 reported.

Phenias Lubisi, 56, a former station commander in Skukuza now working at Calcutta; Xolani Lubisi, 33, a former officer at Calcutta; Constable Thembisile Mhlanga, 30, from Skukuza SAPS; Clyde Mnisi, 33, the alleged “right hand man”; Petrus Mabuza Mshengu, 53, and former White River SAPS officer Joe Nyalunga, 54, appeared in the White River Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday on charges of theft, conspiracy, illegal buying and selling of rhino horns, corruption and money laundering.

The case was postponed to September 27.

The officer arrested on Thursday, who works at the Acornhoek Stock Theft Unit, was expected to appear in the Hazyview Magistrate’s Court later in the day.

She will face similar charges as her co-accused, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said on Thursday.

Luxury vehicles, motorbikes, trucks, trailers, generators and equipment worth millions of rands were seized during a multi-agency swoop on Tuesday.

It is alleged that the syndicate operated with almost military precision around the Kruger National Park, as well as in private and state-owned reserves in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

The operation was conducted by the Hawks, with support from Counter Intelligence, the Special Task Force, the SA Police Service’s forensic science service, SA National Parks, the Department of Environmental Affairs, the SA Revenue Service, customs officials, and the National Prosecuting Authority.

Of the six arrested on Tuesday, Mulaudzi said: “These are the guys who organised the snipers. These are the guys who were making millions.”

Chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police, Francois Beukman, said he was disappointed that officers were among the suspects, but encouraged the Hawks to “continue unabated” with focus on the leadership of crime syndicates.

He added that SAPS should continue to “deal with criminal elements among its members”, and that lifestyle audits and rotation of high-ranking members should be implemented.