The Asset Forfeiture Unit and the SA Revenue Service will be drafted into a Hawks’ investigation of two alleged middlemen in rhino horn poaching chains and a possible link between them and a former SA National Parks (SANParks) employee.
Mandla Mashele and Kelvin Malapane were last week charged with the illegal purchase of four rhino horns valued at R1.5 million, in contravention of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act.
Now, the Hawks are investigating if there are links between Mandla Mashele and former SANParks security officer Prince Mashele, who was arrested in August last year in possession of unlicensed ammunition, a rifle and pistol magazines and ranger and police uniforms.
Kim da Ribeira of Outraged SA Citizens Against Poaching said she had initially been informed the two Masheles were the same person.
However, it was later established this was not the case, said Hawks’ Endangered Species Unit national commander Colonel Johan Jooste.
Jooste said the homes of the two men arrested last month had been searched and no similarities between the two cases could be found. However, investigators would look for a family link as the coincidence of two unrelated men with the same name being involved in poaching was suspicious.
Prince Mashele is currently on bail while he attends court in Skukuza and has been dismissed from SANParks.
“Prince’s house near Hoedspruit is a double-storey mansion among small houses,” Da Ribeira claimed. “He has two large sport utility vehicles parked in the garages.
“How can someone live in a house like that on a security officer’s salary and his lifestyle not be noted? It boggles my mind.”
The Citizen understands Prince’s home in Daveyton is also palatial and has tight security which enabled initial evasion of arrest.
They handed themselves over to the Benoni police last week following a raid on premises in Daveyton in Gauteng in May.
The men appeared in court on May 30 and were granted bail of R50 000 each. The case has been postponed to July 13 for further investigation.
Environmental Minister Edna Molewa congratulated the investigating team comprising the Hawks, the Environmental Management Inspectorate (Green Scorpions) and SANParks for the breakthrough that led to the arrests.