Rhino Poacher Calls South Africa Minister of State Security a Friend and Special Contact

Updated on June 8, 2018
MartieCoetser profile image

Martie Coetser is a freelance writer from South Africa. She has a keen interest in a variety of topics.

10 things you need to know about rhino poaching in SA
10 things you need to know about rhino poaching in SA | Source

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.

Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade by Julian Rademeyer
Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade by Julian Rademeyer | Source

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.

David Mahlobo, Minister of State Security, South Africa
David Mahlobo, Minister of State Security, South Africa
Minister David Mahlobo and manicurist Wei Chelsea
Minister David Mahlobo and manicurist Wei Chelsea | Source

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

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." - John Dalberg-Acton.

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' -

  1. Lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain;
  2. In a state of progressive putrefaction;
  3. Decay of matter (as by rot or oxidation);
  4. Moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles;
  5. Destroying someone's (or some group's) honesty or loyalty; undermining moral integrity;
  6. 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.

Let's enjoy a virtual holiday in the Kruger National Park


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    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      2 years ago from South Africa

      Dear always, it is indeed a shame. As long as myths are profitable products, it will be available, and the demand for it will be encouraged. Business is business.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Martie, thanks for the article. I read it and am amazed how ignorant people are. This proves that crooks will spread lies to line their pockets. The poor animals, what a shame!

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      2 years ago from South Africa

      @ MarleneB – And to think the major reason for rhino horn being more lucrative than gold and platinum is to be found in the self-images of certain men on this planet.

      @ always exploring – Well, apparently there is a little bit more to it. According to the people in East Asia, powdered rhino horn can serve as everything from a cure for cancer to an all-purpose health tonic, a sexual stimulant, a hangover cure and a treatment for high fever.

      But in fact it is only hair. You may as well chew your own nails.

      Here is a link to an article that explains the ingredients - https://africacheck.org/reports/medical-claims-for...

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      HaHa, so true!!

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      2 years ago from South Africa

      always exploring – Actually, the USA has no interest in South Africa, or in any country south of the equator. We don’t have enough oil. Lol! Yip, men regard the lower half of their body as important as women regard the upper half of theirs. Their entire ego is settled below the navel, like women’s is settled above the navel. Check it out – the distance to the two cores is the same…. :)))) Humans!

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      2 years ago from USA

      Cruelty, lies, corruption... It's everywhere. I had not realized before reading your article, how prevalent it was in the realm of the rhino horns and how the market for rhino horns is more lucrative than gold and platinum.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      OMG, is there nothing man won't do for sexual gratification? I'll be praying daily for your continuation of SA news. I learn more from reading your hubs than the news. I guess I would need to watch foreign news to hear about this because our news never say anything about Africa. Take care my friend.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      2 years ago from South Africa

      @ MsDora – I believe the Level One poachers are extremely poor, ignorant, uneducated, and spiritually undeveloped. On top of this they are desperately in need of money to cover their most basic needs. The rest in the pipeline are greedy moneymakers with no conscience and no compassion for man or beast. Yes, this is a dreadful state of affairs. What I also hate about this and all similar tragedies is the fact that it compels me to develop a thick, numb skin. I mean, it breaks my heart, and makes me feel powerless. It actually makes me realize that I am powerless. It deprives me of all joy and hope for the future (with this kind of people in our midst), so I have no choice but to ignore the entire situation and rather focus on the beauty around me and all the things I am grateful for.

      @ FlourishAnyway – I have to google Trump’ son in order to understand what you mean :))) If he, too, kills animals for profit, my disappointment in The Donald will grow even deeper.

      @ kallini2010 – This is what rhino poaching and similar tragedies do to us – leave us speechless in a state of shock. Sadly, Svetlana, the ordinary people – the masses – are self-centered and careless about whatever goes on outside their personal sphere. Only severe emotional pain can inspire ordinary people to become advocates fighting a cause of pain - and that cause will always be that of their personal pain. The number of people who have lost a relative in the rhino horn trade is by far not enough to create a big enough human force against rhino poaching. Also keep in mind that those who do lose a relative receive compensation. So, the only losers in this business are the rhinos. And, as I’ve said, ordinary people don’t care about whatever live or don’t live outside their personal sphere. Sad! Like a terminal disease with no cure.

      @ AliciaC – One can but only hope that articles about rhino poaching will touch the heart of consumers and inspire them to stop buying anything made of rhino horn. Remember the movement against fur coats? It took a decade or two before fur coats change from a sign of wealth and prosperity into a sign of cruelty and ignorance.

      @ always exploring – The people of the East believe that rhino horn and tiger bone stimulate sexual desire!?! Thank you for being concerned about me. Believe it or not, but fearing a downgrade to junk status (economy) our vice president actually asked all South Africans to be careful what they tell the world about SA. We are supposed to say nothing about the bad and the ugly. WTH? Keeping secrets with today’s TV and social media? Just hope and pray SA’s government doesn’t follow the example of some Arab and Communist countries, and block all international communication channels. Fortunately, that will be a violation of our Constitution.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Martie, I didn't know about rhino and tiger poaching. I knew elephants were killed for their ivory. How horrible this is. I wonder what kind of medicine the horns are used for? Families sending their children to be killed is so sad. I hesitate to judge them, who knows what I would do if I had a hungry family. That's the real evil, we have enough food to feed the world, yet greed has taken over. Martie please be careful. A corrupt government will do anything to eliminate a person who reports for justice. I admire you my friend. The video was interesting. Hugs..

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is such a tragic story, Martie. It's a horrible situation for the rhinos. Thank you for publicizing the situation and for raising our awareness.

    • kallini2010 profile image


      2 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I really don't know what to say.

      Yes, power corrupts. Even the tiniest amount of it - such as the power parents have over their children or teachers have over their students.

      I may have read something about the concept of power and its mechanism, but I am at a loss for words and that would be the first. I always "know" what to say.

      I understand the problem, I have not come across any solutions.

      Maybe only numbers vs. numbers. If ordinary people, enough of ordinary people make it their priority (wishful thinking), then it could be stopped.

      But people tend to disagree with each other and it is hard for them to get organized. That's the problem with power - if all the children in the school revolted - no teacher would be able to exercise any power.

      Maybe I should reiterate what I said last time -

      don't underestimate the power of ordinary people en masse.

      Donald Trump will not be a president, if America revolts. I don't see it.

      In the meantime, my heart goes out to nature - sometimes the hunter becomes the hunted. Corruption may backfire.

      Some incoherent comment - but I cannot do any better at the moment.


    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      2 years ago from USA

      He's probably a buddy of Donald Trump's son as well. Terrible. I hope they get what they deserve.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      To risk lives of family members in exchange for illegal money seems like cruelty and stupidity of the highest order. Are these poachers without conscience? No compassion for man or beast? What a dreadful state of affairs!

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      2 years ago from South Africa

      @ marcoujor – The knowledge that I kill (indirectly) and eat animals in order to stay alive is almost unbearable. We humans are merely glorified animals somewhere at the top of the food chain. So I can’t help but wonder what kind of people is able to kill in order to possess stuff they don’t need in order to stay alive. I just can’t justify the killing of animals, not to talk about the killing of humans, when it is inspired by ignorance, superstition, greed, vanity or any other iniquitous characteristic. Thanks for agreeing with me, dear Maria!

      @ sallybea - We have so many projects and campaigns, and legislations in place to protect our wild animals, and still some people don’t give a damn. Sigh! Thanks for your encouraging comment.

      @ btrbell – I take my hat off for the investigators of Al Jazeera. They actually risk their lives, infiltrating the poachers’ pipeline. Thank you for agreeing with me. We are most certainly on the same page. Get yourself a cup of tea or coffee, sit back, and watch the video. You will be left totally dumbfounded.

      @ Nell Rose - Although the Kruger National park was already established in 1898 to protect SA’s wildlife, game hunting is still legal after the prescribed permits have been obtained. I am forever trying to convince myself that this is okay on this and that condition, but deep down I believe even the killing of chicken and fish is wrong, unless we finally accept the fact that we are, indeed, animals and simply one of the links in the food chain. But then, do you know any animal that kills in order to turn the kill in a trophy, or in order to embellish itself with ornaments?

      In the 19th century elephant hunting and trading in ivory was a ‘profession’. Two (perhaps more) of my relatives were ‘professional’ elephant hunters, and both were trampled to death by an elephant. Now let me rather bite my tongue before displaying my dark side.

      There is no way I can justify the killing of rhinos or any animal, unless its meat is ESSENTIAL for the survival of another living creature.

      @ mckbirdbks - Now that’s a plan. However, the self-confessed rhino horn trader in the video mentioned that death is the punishment for those who dare to sell fakes of any kind. Somehow those criminals always find themselves between the devil and the ocean.

      @ billybuc – I don’t know if you know about the dog killings in China. They believe torturing the dog before killing it sweetens and tenderizes the meat. Just telling you this makes me shivers from head to toes. The point is we will hope more compassionate minds prevail until horses grow horns.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have no patience with poaching. To me, it is a crime against all humanity, and should be punished by stiffer laws and fines. Thanks for raising awareness, Martie. Let's hope more compassionate minds prevail.

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Martie - Again, you bring to the forefront, something we know about, but did not give much attention to, while we go about our lives.

      The answer may be in flooding the market with ground up chicken bones and offering them in the market place at $60,000 a kilo. It would not be long before the counterfeit product wiped out the trust in the real product.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      2 years ago from England

      Ouch that had to hurt him, tough! what is it with these people? I am not sure what makes me more angry, the fact that they poach or the fact that people are so thick they think rhino horn is worth something! hunters trophy hunters killers, etc and so on. the more power the more corrupt. its the same in the west only they cover it up better!

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 

      2 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      I really believe that Xolani Nicholus Funda is absolutely right. No matter how many poachers are arrested or killed, there will always be more poachers. The problem starts with level 5, the consumers. What horrific values some people have! We are money hungry, trophy hungry and we don't care who gets hurt, stepped on or killed on our way.

      "...absolute power corrupts absolutely."

      Thank you for sharing this, Martie. It is important for us to know just how serious it is so that we can be more aware and hopefully, better advocates.

      Can't wait to go back and watch the entire video!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      2 years ago from Norfolk

      Shocking but not surprising! I remember seeing these huge animals in the Umfolozi Game Park when I was growing up. They really don't deserve the fate that these people have ear marked them for. I despair at the greed of the human race. Shared on Twitter, it is about time that the world stood up and took notice. Well done Martie, you must surely be making a difference with your well researched articles.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      2 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      "Ivory chopsticks, ornaments, bracelets, pen holders and personalized seals"... really?

      Oh Sista, what a cruel and corrupt world we live in - one where accoutrements trump the lives of these beautiful creatures. I don't and would never care to own such a blood-stained 'treasure'.

      Your series continues to raise my awareness - for that, I am grateful.

      Love you much, mar


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