Noteworthy news: Rhino poacher calls South Africa Minister of State Security a friend and special contact
The reputation of David Mahlobo, South Africa’s State Security Minister, is at stake since a self-confessed level three rhino poacher bragged about their friendship on international TV.
In a documentary aired by Al Jazeera Investigates Guan Jiang Guang, self-confessed trader in rhino horn and owner of Jinxu-Chinese Massage Parlor in South Africa, said he escapes prosecution by paying bribes.
“He (Minister David Mahlobo) used to live here (in Nelspruit). He came to my massage parlor every week, or at least twice a month,” Guan said while proving their relationship with photos on his cell phone. “I know David very well… I met him before he was appointed Minister of State Security in 2014, when he was head of the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs… But he doesn’t do business… only his wife does. Whenever there is a big project, his wife is out front. He is behind the scenes. It is very common in South Africa that the wives are doing business and the husbands are acting officially. If anything happens, they will mention their husband’s name. Officials will never do business in their own name.”
Also recorded on Al Jazeera’s hidden camera, Guan claimed that he employs illegal immigrants in his massage parlor and easily circumvents immigration laws. In one of the photos on his cell phone David Mahlobo poses at Jinxu-Chinese Massage Parlor with a Chinese ‘manicure girl’.
“Everything in Africa is based on money,” said Guan. “I give two guys at the immigration department $70 (±R1005) each per month. They don’t even investigate.”
Guan told Al Jazeera investigators that he was arrested and convicted of running an illegal “gambling den”, but he quickly dealt with it by bribing the officials in the department of justice. The bribe was “very cheap, a few thousand,” he said on tape. He also boasted that he has an “untouchable” source at Beijing Capital International Airport who has “absolutely no problem” smuggling rhino horn into China.
Guang went into hiding after Al Jazeera aired their documentary called “The Poachers Pipeline” on Sonday, November 13th .
‘The Poachers Pipeline’ by Al Jazeera Investigates
Al Jazeera investigative unit’s penetration into the network of rhino horn dealers, agents and traffickers lasted six months. It was prompted by a visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his delegation to South Africa in December 2015. During this visit some members of the delegation went on an illegal spending spree to buy ivory and rhino horn, which they smuggled back to China with no fear of getting caught, as they have diplomatic immunity and may not be searched by customs and police officials at airports.
Chefs and guides who catered for the delegation told investigators that they were pressed to find ivory. “Their demand for ivory chopsticks, ornaments, bracelets, pen holders and personalized seals was so great the supplier sold out in two days,” said one of Al Jazeero’s sources.
In the documentary called The Poachers Pipeline, Al Jazeera exposed the role of Chinese nationals in the illicit rhino horn trade, implicating officials in the highest echelons of government. They also examined evidence that the North Korea’s embassy in Pretoria is involved in the rhino horn trade. High-ranking Vietnamese officials, including the country’s ambassador to South Africa, Le Huy Hoang, are implicated. The latter happens to have ties to a game farm near Klerksdorp in the North West Province - a farm owned by a prominent Vietnamese businessman and alleged rhino horn kingpin, Michael Chu aka Chu Dank Khoa. On this farm some 50 tigers, numerous rhinos and other animals are kept in captivity for "pseudo-hunting" by Vietnamese nationals and other ‘trustworthy’ customers. At the back of the house is a room with gas burners and big pots where they cook the bones of tigers to make ‘tiger cake’ for export to Vietnam. In Vietnam tiger bones, like rhino horns, are regarded as medicine and status symbols.
Criminals behind the rhino horn trade
Those trying to combat the criminals behind the rhino horn trade are hampered on every level by corruption, an interviewee in The Poacher Pipeline complained. “There are huge profits to be made. They (the rhino horn traders) are able to buy their way at political levels, into police, into customs. So they undermine the whole law and order structure to get their way,”
In legal terms poachers are Level One's. They are merely poor villagers willing to risk their lives in order to feed their families.
‘We have to understand how rhino-poaching syndicates operate’, explained Dr Leonardo Simão, executive director of a wildlife preservation initiative in Mozambique. “Mozambicans know that to poach is risky and illegal. They risk their lives and their children’s lives because they profit, and their profit is worth the risk. We know that when a poacher is killed, the syndicate will still bring the money to the family. So the family reckons: ‘We’ve lost our son, but are being compensated. So the next son also goes.” (According to unconfirmed figures about 270 poachers were arrested and 220 killed during skirmishes with rangers inside the Kruger National Park over the past five years. At least 80% of them were citizens of Mozambique.)
On Level Two are the gang masters who organize and fund the kills. They sell to Level Three dealers, who export the horns. Level Four are the importers, Level Five are the consumers.
“We will never-ever win this fight if we focus only on the Level One poachers,” confirmed Xolani Nicholus Funda, Chief Ranger at the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Rhino horn is a commodity more lucrative than gold and platinum, and more valuable on the black market than diamonds and cocaine, as reported by Earthtouch already in 2014. The price of a rhino horn was then $60,000 per-kilogram on the black market.
Kruger National Park, the home of most of Africa's rhinos
Most of the 25,000 remaining rhinos in Africa are to be found in South Africa's Kruger National Park - one of the largest game reserves in Africa. According to a survey in 2015 the Kruger Park is home to ± 9300 white rhinos and ± 4000 black rhinos. About 5000 white rhinos are in the hands of private and communal owners in South Africa;
About six thousand rhinos have been killed since 2006.
Two to three rhinos are killed each night in the Kruger National Park.
“Despite the valiant efforts of many law enforcement and government officials, prosecutors and game rangers, the transnational criminal networks trafficking rhino horn are as resilient as ever and – with rare exceptions – impervious to attempts to disrupt their activities,” reported journalist Julian Rademeyer in his book, Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade. For this book Julian Rademeyer won the prestigious Marjan-Marsh Award, bestowed by the Marjan Centre for the Study of Conflict and Conservation in the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London.
Since 2010, over 1,700 suspected poachers have been arrested, and still the end of the rhino horn trade is nowhere in sight.
Why is rhino horn a commodity more lucrative than gold and platinum?
People in certain Asian countries believe rhino horn possesses healing properties. Among other, it allegedly serve as a cure for cancer, an all-purpose health tonic, a sexual stimulant, a hangover cure and a treatment for high fever.
But in fact rhino horn contains only hair. One may as well chew their own nails instead of consuming rhino horn.
The biggest demand for rhino horn is in China and Southeast Asia.
Minister David Mahlobo
Although Minister David Mahlobo admitted that he had been a regular customer at the Jinxu-Chinese Massage Parlor, he denied all other allegations and claims against him and his wife.
He also denied being behind the freeing of poachers who had been caught red-handed killing rhinos.
South Africa’s leading political party, the ANC, stressed that the claim made by Guan Jiang Guang - that he is a friend of Minister David Mahlobo - did not necessarily mean the minister is involved in rhino poaching.
“In order for us to comment, we want the details of the photographs and video material purporting to show these allegations, as well as the details of the undercover investigator,” said the minister’s spokesperson, Brian Dube.
Unfortunately, Minister David Mahlobo has been caught lying about his relationship with Mcebo Dlamini, one of the leaders of the FeesMustFall protests. (Dlamini was arrested on the charges of theft, assault, public violence and malicious damage to property. He was granted bail while his case has been postponed for further investigations in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court.)
In less than 48 hours Minister Mahlobo made two contradictory statements about Mcebo Dlamini. Minister Mahlobo stated that Dlamini had been to his house, but later in Parliament he said that Dlamini had never been to his house. According to Alex Hotz of the Civil society organisation Right2Know, contradictory statements is "an attitude coming from Minister Mahlobo and his ministry for a long time."
Brian Dube, the minister's spokesperson, said the Minister will not comment on the issue about Dlamini at this stage, or about being called a friend and special contact of a self-confessed rhino horn trader. According to News24's journalist, Lizeka Tandwa, Mahlobo had asked his lawyers to look into bringing a defamation case against Al Jazeera. He had also asked the police to investigate all allegations made against him, and to take action against Guang for alleged illegal rhino poaching, and to look into claims that he employed illegal immigrants and circumvented immigration laws.
The opinion of an owfma-sa
This idea has been tested in laboratories, and the conclusion was, indeed, that "even those who were honest and had mostly socially-acceptable attitudes at the moment of their accession to a position of leadership rather easily changed their moral perspectives once they got a taste of power." However, while the tests revealed that corruption depends on power, it also revealed that corruption depends on the person too. While future research will shed more light on the type of person who allows power to corrupt them, the results of this test suggest that organizations should limit the number of leaders who can drink from the seductive chalice of power.
South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, categorized corruption as a "Western Concept". And even if it is a crime, his lawyers argued, it is a crime where there are “no victims”.
If an anti-Western president and his lawyers don't have an idea what corruption is, and who the true victims of corruption are, one should accept that the majority of their followers don't have an idea what corruption is, and who the victims are. Then one should merely know that ignorance will be the cause of their fall.
Fortunately, Ignorantia juris non excusat - "Ignorance of law excuses no one" and "Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth." - Buddha
Just for the record, the meaning of the word 'corruption' -
- Lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain;
- In a state of progressive putrefaction;
- Decay of matter (as by rot or oxidation);
- Moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles;
- Destroying someone's (or some group's) honesty or loyalty; undermining moral integrity;
- Inducement (as of a public official) by improper means (as bribery) to violate duty (as by committing a felony).
I don't want to shock my readers by posting a picture of a rhino whose horns were hacked by humans, as it is a haunting image that provokes intense disgust and hate. To say that I love and forgive anyone who deliberately hurts an animal or fellow-human in any way, directly or indirectly, would be a blatant lie. But to lower myself to the level of a barbarian by practicing the eye-for-an-eye policy, even if only in my mind, is not the solution to this major problem called 'rhino horn trading'. I realize that people have to be educated and refined from the day they take their first breath, and even this may not be enough to make them decent, responsible adults with integrity.
As long as there is a demand for rhino horns and tiger bones, rhinos and tigers will be killed for profit.
So when will those who believe that rhino horn and tiger bones have what it takes to keep them potent and healthy, come to their senses, is the question without an answer in my mind.
This is my opinion of corruption and its victims, not only in the rhino horn business, but in all sectors of society. I believe putting an end to demands that encourage illegal activities, should be the beginning of putting an end to corruption.
Yes, easier said than done, I know. Just keep in mind that an owfma-sa is an ordinary white female middle-aged South African.