Three men linked to crimes at torched Mpumalanga lodge to appear in court
Mpumalanga police have confirmed that three suspects are expected to appear before the Kanyamazane magistrate’s court on Tuesday for arson, possession of stolen goods and other crimes.
The men, aged between 28 and 37, will face charges linked to an incident on January 31, where Bongani Mountain Game Lodge, at Mthethomusha Game Reserve, which borders on the Kruger National Park and shares a fence line with the park came under attack.
Mpumalanga lodge was torched, seemingly in retaliation for the shooting of a poacher.
“On that day, a group of people driving in a white SUV alighted at the entrance of the lodge. It is said that they then used rubble including stones and branches of trees to barricade the road which leads to the lodge. Police were called to diffuse the situation, however, while they were still clearing the road, other people among the group, proceeded to the lodge where they are reported to have broken several doors and helped themselves to liquor as well as other items belonging to the lodge,” said police spokesperson Leonard Hlathi.
He said they also damaged some property, torching some of the rooms and other infrastructure before fleeing the scene with the stolen items, leaving behind a trail of damage costing about R9m.
“Employees at the lodge reportedly had to run for their safety as they witnessed the horrific event unfolding in front of their eyes. Police, as well as other emergency personnel including the fire brigade, responded to the scene and the blazing fire was extinguished,” he said.
Hlathi said after the event, a case of arson was registered with additional charges including theft, malicious damage to property, as well as public violence. A manhunt was launched.
“Police then received information pertaining to the case hence they traced and apprehended the trio. During their apprehension, one of the suspects was reportedly found in possession of certain items believed to have been stolen from the lodge,” he said.
Hlathi said on Sunday police received information of illegal poaching that took place in the game reserve where the lodge is situated.
He said when they responded they discovered nine carcasses of four different animal species including three impala, four inyala, one rock jumper and one spotted genet.
“A preliminary probe suggests that the carcasses were abandoned by a group of unscrupulous individuals who were involved in an illegal poaching activity earlier at the game reserve but were somehow given no chance through the visibility of the rangers which undoubtedly forced them to flee the scene, leaving behind their loot,” Hlathi said.
He said police confiscated other items such as knives, pots and torches at the scene.
Hlathi said a case of illegal hunting was registered with the mentioned items seized and a manhunt has been motioned for the suspects.
He said the police are following some positive leads in their investigation and are optimistic that arrests are imminent.
However, they also request the community to participate in the investigation.
He said police are also investigating a murder case involving a man who was found dead in his house at Matsulu near Nelspruit.