Ndlovu rhino trial back on track


The saw that police found in the Ndlovus’ possession at Makana Resort in June 2016 and the chip of paint from the scene of a poaching incident that the prosecution says links the incident with the men. The saw and the forensic expert appeared in court Monday 28 January. Photo: Sue Maclennan

The chip of paint that in November last year further delayed the high-profile Ndlovu rhino-poaching trial made its appearance in the in the High Court in Makhanda (Grahamstown) Monday 28 January, along with the saw that it came off and the expert who matched the two.

Jabulani Ndlovu, Forget Ndlovu and Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu, are finally standing trial on rhino poaching charges. They were arrested at Makana Resort outside Makhanda in June 2016. Seized from their chalet were a freshly cut rhino horn along with tranquilliser, a dart gun, a saw and a knife. They were apprehended as part of the South African Police Service’s Operation Full Moon hours after the killing and removal of the horn of a white rhino at Bucklands Reserve outside Makhanda. Police have alleged they may be linked to as many as 50 rhino poaching cases across South Africa over a number of years.

The men’s appearance yesterday was the first of the new year and followed more than two years of delays and interruptions. Their last appearance was in November 2018. The men’s defence counsel, Advocate Terry Price SC had contested the admissibility of the evidence, because the investigating officer had not obtained a search warrant. Ruling in the the trial within a trial, Judge Jeremy Pickering determined that the evidence seized at Makana resort in June 2016 was admissible.

The trial resumed on 26 November with Captain Morne Viljoen of the Jeffreys Bay based Endangered Species Unit giving detailed evidence on the detective work that had led the police to the men. But proceedings stalled again when Price insisted that Viljoen was not qualified to give evidence about the saw found in the men’s possession and the paint chip found at the scene.

The prosecution says a tiny chip of yellow paint found at the site of the June 2016 incident at Bucklands is a direct link between the poaching incident and the saw found in the men’s possession at Makana Resort.

On Monday 28 January 2019, Lieutenant-Colonel Werdie van Huysteen, forensic paint expert in the scientific analysis section of the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory in Pretoria, duly appeared in Court A of the High Court complex in Makhanda (Grahamstown). With he she brought the yellow saw, and the chip of yellow paint that she’d matched to it.

Price, however, declined to question Van Huysteen and on seeing the evidence, said he had nothing further to add on the matter of the saw. Senior State Advocate Buks Coetzee asked the Judge for permission for Van Huysteen to return to Pretoria and this was granted.

The trial is under way in the high court in Makhanda today.

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