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By Citizen Reporter


Sex, gambling, bribery in KZN courts see Rhino poachers get off – report

A new amaBhungane report paints a frightening picture of corruption at the heart of the SA justice system.

A report by Sam Sole for investigative journalism collective amaBhungane has exposed the alleged bribing of court officials in KwaZulu Natal by rhino poachers and other criminals.

KwaZulu-Natal regional court president Eric Nzimande could be suspended over the allegations, which have risen from a three-year investigation driven by four women – Thinake Gumede, Teresa Swart, Jamie Joseph and a fourth woman whose identity is not known.

The amaBhungane report paints a frightening picture of corruption at the heart of the SA justice system.

It details suspicions that Nzimande had a gambling addiction, that he facilitated by giving acting magistrates positions to people in exchange for cash.

His actions also appeared to have led to the formation of a network of corrupt judicial officers who twisted the law in favour of criminals, allegedly taking bribes over not only rhino poaching cases but a rape case.

Gumede, one of the acting magistrates appointed under Nzimande, was the woman who initially blew the whistle on him, although she appears to be no angel herself.

She was arrested in 2015 for defeating the ends of justice after allegedly entering a police station and speaking to a witness who was set to testify against one of her relatives in a rape case.

READ MORE: Four cops, two kingpins bust in major rhino poaching breakthrough

Despite a criminal case against her having been opened she was allowed to continue serving as an acting regional court magistrate, and appeared untouchable until her acting appointment was not renewed by Nzimande, at which point she turned on him, filing a complaint against him.

She alleges that Nzimande was a compulsive gambler; that he sexually harassed her; that he had extorted money and borrowed over R140 000 from her; that he had threatened to take away her contract when she refused to lend him money; that other colleagues had been met with the same treatment; that she committed transgressions with Nzimande’s knowledge and that the department of justice tried to get rid of her to hide his crimes.

A second woman, journalist and environmental activist Teresa Swart, compiled a draft report that was leaked to amaBhungane, detailing Nzimande and his department’s alleged corruption.

READ MORE: Rhino poaching in SA drops by a quarter

Swart appears to have uncovered that people connected to rhino poaching cases had paid money into Nzimande’s account, including the controversial case of alleged poaching “kingpin” Dumisani Gwala.

She also found massive evidence of Nzimande’s alleged gambling addiction, which may have led to losses of R409 995 in 2013 alone.

Swart also reported that in 2012, Gumede paid R30 000 into Nzimande’s account, after which she was appointed by the deputy minister’s office as an acting regional court magistrate.

Jamie Joseph, meanwhile, is an environmentalist and journalist, who, through her Saving the Wild platform, highlighted the fact that rhino poachers were getting off too easily in KZN. She has blown the whistle on alleged corruption involving a magistrate called Deuteronomy Ngcobo.

In January 2016, she wrote: “Magistrate Ngcobo has a long history of letting off rhino poachers with a slap on the wrist or a small fine. Gwala’s defence attorney is Ngwenya, the same attorney that defends most of the poachers in KwaZulu-Natal. How these poverty stricken poachers can afford an attorney is still a mystery.”

Another acting magistrate Welcome Ngwenya, who was appointed by Nzimande, is at the centre of allegations made by Swart that court officials abused their position to violate the justice system and benefit criminals, including notorious alleged poacher Gwala.

The full report can be read here.

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