A Makhanda (Grahamstown) paramedic and four other men will appear in the Regional Court in Makhanda (Grahamstown) on 1 March on rhino-poaching charges. The local man was granted bail of R50 000 under stringent conditions in the Magistrate’s Court on Friday 8 February. His four co-accused, who are all foreign nationals, remain in custody.
The men were arrested on 30 December in possession of two rhino horns. Microchips in the horns linked them to a black rhino in the Great Fish River reserve whose carcass was found there the next day. On Thursday 7 February, in their fourth appearance, the men began their bail application. It continued the next day.
Representing the local man is candidate attorney Declan Williamson from Wheeldon, Rushmere and Cole. Advocate Charles Stamper is representing the other four accused, who are from Mozambique.
Through a Tsonga translator, Senior State Counsel Buks Coetzee queried inconsistencies between the second accused’s account of events, and evidence that would be brought to court in the trial. Cellphone records and items seized by the police would be among the evidence used to argue the men’s link to the vehicles, two rhino horns found in one of them and a rhino-poaching incident in the Great Fish River Reserve, Coetzee said.
The men were arrested in a roadblock in Ventersburg, 150km north of Bloemfontein, on the morning of 30 December 2018.
Williamson presented Magistrate Ntsoki Moni with strong arguments in favour of bail for the local man, who is the first accused. The man would be pleading not guilty, Williamson said. His family and business commitments meant that four school-going children, an adult child in a tertiary institution and an elderly mother, along with his wife were dependent on him as the primary breadwinner. The income of two employees in a business he owned would also be threatened. In addition, being absent without leave from work would have serious consequences with his employer. All these commitments, Williamson argued, were an indication of stability.
Bail was set for him at R50 000. He is required to report at the Grahamstown Police Station twice a day. The provisional date in the Regional Court is 1 March. This is when the trial date will be set.
Grocott’s Mail won’t identify the men before they plead.
- Note: Grocott’s Mail previously referred to Declan Williamson as Basil Williams and as counsel. This is incorrect and the reporter apologises.