Field ranger and his accomplices arrested at Kruger National Park during intelligence driven operation, rifle recovered

NELSPRUIT – A Field Ranger is amongst three suspects who appeared at the Bushbuckridge Magistrate’s Court yesterday, Monday 13 February 2023 on charges of possession of unlicensed firearm with ammunition as well as for trespassing at the Kruger Nationa…

NELSPRUIT – A Field Ranger is amongst three suspects who appeared at the Bushbuckridge Magistrate’s Court yesterday, Monday 13 February 2023 on charges of possession of unlicensed firearm with ammunition as well as for trespassing at the Kruger National Park. The three were apprehended on Saturday, 11 February 2023.

According to the report, information was gathered by the SAPS members from Skukuza Stock Theft Unit about some individuals who were orchestrating to enter the Park to commit crime. The information further detailed how the suspects were contemplating to use the Numbi Gate as their entry point. This information was then shared with the SANPARKS officials whereby an operation was jointly conducted around Pretoriuskop between the SAPS members, Sanpark Protection Services as well as Field Rangers.

A search at Numbi Gate and Pretoriuskop Section was then carried out with the assistance of a Sanpark helicopter. During the operation, a certain car, white Toyota Hilux bakkie driven by a Field Ranger was stopped and when searching, the team discovered that underneath a tonneau (sail) cover at the back of the bakkie, there were two male persons who were hiding. Upon further examination, a hunting rifle without serial numbers as well as about ten live ammunition were found hidden behind a seat. There were also two knives that were found inside the bakkie. The two male persons at the back of the bakkie reportedly failed to produce entrance permits hence they were arrested together with the driver (ranger). The three were charged accordingly for possession of unlicensed firearm with ammunition, whilst two were charged for trespassing into the park. All items, including the vehicle were seized for investigation and the car is believed to have been used in the commission of crime.

Preliminary investigation suggests that Bright Mashele (36), a Field Ranger employed by SANPARKS allegedly smuggled his two fellows into the park through Numbi Gate. The two were reportedly found hiding behind the said bakkie and they were identified as Collen Mathebula (32) and Casper Mlambo (30).

During their court appearance, Mashele and Mathebula were granted bail of R15 000 each meanwhile Mlambo’s bail hearing was postponed due to investigation which revealed that he has previous conviction cases against him. His formal bail hearing will be held on Wednesday, 15 February 2023 and the other two are also expected to show up in court. The investigation continues and at this stage police cannot rule out the possibility of adding other charges against the suspects.

The Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela has been extremely elated by the collaborative efforts by stakeholders which yielded positive results.

Source: South African Police Service