The active members were Capt Phineas Lubisi (SAPS Calcutta) and Const Aretha Mhlanga (SAPS Skukuza), while former constable Claude Lubisi was also arrested. According to police spokesman Col Mtsholi Bhembe, the latter was dismissed early in the year through an internal disciplinary process after he was arrested for similar allegations.
His father Capt Phineas Lubisi, was commander at Calcutta Police Station at the time of his arrest. Another officer, Const Rachel Qwebana, was arrested on Thursday after going “on the run”. She handed herself over to Hazyview police and was to appear in court yesterday.
Nyalunga is a former warrant officer of White River Police Station. The arrests were made after what is believed to be the biggest operation of its kind in South Africa and followed an investigation by the Wildlife Trafficking Section of the Hawks that started in January 2017, named Project Broadbill.
According to the Hawks spokesman Capt Dineo Sekgotodi, the arrests were made with the support Counter Intelligence, Special Task Force, SAPS Forensic Science Service, SANParks, the Department of Environmental Affairs, SARS and Customs and the National Prosecuting Authority.
During the operation properties of the kingpins were searched and law-enforcement members found and confiscated luxury items, cars and an undisclosed amount of money, estimated at millions of rand. The operation focused on the criminal supply chain of poached rhinos within the Kruger National Park, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and other private or state-owned reserves.
The operation is expected to continue in KZN and Limpopo. The provincial police com
missioner, Lt Gen Mondli Zuma has on numerous occasions warned members and employees not to engage in corruption and other criminal activities.”Hence these arrests are most likely to uproot rotten elements from the ranks of the police as well as serve as a deterrent to other members and employees,” Zuma said.
The six suspects appeared in the White River Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday on charges of poaching, theft and possession of stolen property relating to the poached horns of seven white rhinos. A source close to the undercover operation told Lowvelder yesterday that they were concerned that the courts in the Lowveld may not be in a position to handle such a wide ranging hearing on organised crime, in terms of the POCA Act.
The six were remanded in custody. They are to reappear in the White River court on Thursday September 27.