The investigative documentary, Al Jazeera Investigates – The Poachers Pipeline, aired on Al Jazeera on Sunday afternoon.
Mahlobo appears to have been implicated in the rhino poaching exposé, which also reveals how members of the Chinese president’s delegation allegedly went on an illegal spending spree to buy ivory and rhino horn, according to Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.
The undercover Al Jazeera team recorded a Chinese man, who lives in Pretoria and acted as a tour guide for a large delegation that arrived in South Africa in December 2015 with President Xi Jinping. Speaking Chinese, the man claimed in the documentary Mahlobo was a close friend who’d even been a guest at his home.
He alleged that Mahlobo was a customer of his “massage girls” and that his wife was the one involved in “projects” in the forefront, while Mahlobo was “behind the scenes”. He claimed this was common for South African politicians, to have their wives take the lead in “business”.
The documentary raises serious questions around why poachers who were caught red-handed were not prosecuted and the implication appears to be Mahlobo may have had a hand in ensuring the freeing of these poachers.
Mahlobo’s spokesperson denied all the accusations, however, despite the fact that the man in the documentary had several photos of himself and Mahlobo together, allegedly even at the minister’s home.
Mahlobo denied that his wife does “business on his behalf”.
It took Al Jazeera six months to do their investigation, which also filmed a Chinese businessman, based in South Africa, describing his dealings in rhino horn and how he escapes prosecution, simply by paying bribes.
He told the journalists how he traffics the horn back to China, where they succeeded in being offered a rhino horn with an asking price of more than $60,000 (R860,000).
Al Jazeera also exposes the links between the Vietnamese Embassy in South Africa and a Vietnamese-owned game reserve, northwest of Pretoria, suspected of trafficking rhino horn and tiger bones.
The YouTube clip below is preset to start at the section that deals with Mahlobo. To watch the full documentary, however, just restart the clip from the beginning. If it doesn’t play, it means it has been restricted, but you can simply watch the full programme on YouTube.
The Al Jazeera release explains:
“An Al Jazeera undercover team penetrated the network of dealers, agents and traffickers who profit from the multimillion-dollar trade in rhino horn, an illegal business that is decimating the rhino population close to the point of extinction.
“Our reporters discovered that members of the Chinese President’s delegation went on an illegal spending spree in South Africa to buy ivory and rhino horn and smuggled the products back to China, according to revelations to be broadcast by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.
“In a six-month long investigation the Al Jazeera team also filmed a Chinese businessman, based in South Africa, describing his dealings in rhino horn and how he escapes prosecution. ‘Everything in Africa is based on money’, he says.
Al Jazeera shows exclusive footage shot secretly in a village near the Vietnamese capitol, Hanoi, which is a hub of wildlife trafficking. Despite a massive dossier of evidence on over fifty dealers in the village selling horn, ivory, tiger skins and lion bones to the Vietnamese government, no official action has been taken to close down the trade.
“About twenty-five thousand rhino are left in Africa. Six thousand have been killed in the last decade. The largest concentration of rhino is in South Africa and the Kruger National Park has become the major killing field, with two or three animals shot every night by local poachers.”