Rhino horn accused 'protected by bribery'

More than two years after his arrest, Gwala is yet to go on trial

Activist Jamie Joseph confronts Dumisani Gwala.
Image: Supplied Activist Jamie Joseph confronts Dumisani Gwala.

Accusations of corruption and deliberate delays in the trial of alleged KwaZulu-Natal rhino-poaching kingpin Dumisani Gwala have led to calls for the case to the moved to the high court.

Gwala - whose network was at one time alleged to have been responsible for about 80% of all poached horn in the province - and co-accused Wiseman Makeba and Aubrey Dlamini are facing a total of 10 charges, most related to the illegal purchase and possession of rhino horn, and of resisting arrest.

They were arrested on December 18 2014. Gwala and Makeba are out on bail and Dlamini is in custody. 

They are being tried in the Ngwelezane Magistrate's Court near Empangeni and are due back there on August 4.

They first appeared in court in January 2015, but the trial itself is yet to begin. Since being moved to Ngwelezane nearly a year after the first hearing, it has been postponed at least 14 times.

An affidavit has now emerged claiming that the case is being deliberately postponed so Gwala can get off on a technicality, or face a lighter sentence.

The signed document, seen by the Sunday Times this week, forms part of a broader investigation into alleged corruption within Zululand courts. It claims that bribes have been paid to ensure that the case is dragged out. The author's identity cannot be revealed as this would put their life at risk.

The Sunday Times understands that the NPA has been given a copy of the affidavit.

Although the Magistrates Commission officially denied being in possession of it, a senior investigator confirmed that he had seen the affidavit and "processes are being followed".

Activist Jamie Joseph, who has set her sights on ensuring Gwala is brought to book, has exposed alleged corruption in Zululand courts on her website savingthewild.com.

She said: "If this case does not urgently get transferred to the high court, and far away from Zululand, justice will not prevail. Gwala simply has far too much judicial and political protection in Zululand."

The IFP and DA backed Joseph's call for the case to be moved.

"The high number of postponements are unusual ... With so much at stake, these should definitely be further investigated by the Department of Justice," said Anthony Mitchell of the IFP.

The director of public prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal, Moipone Noko, declined to comment in detail, but said the postponements in the case had been sought by both defence and prosecution.