Save Skukuza Regional Court

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Richprins
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Save Skukuza Regional Court

Post by Richprins » Sat Feb 15, 2020 4:21 pm

https://www.change.org/p/the-president- ... m-closure/



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As a collective effort from concerned NGO’s and the public at large, the aim of this petition is to bring to your honourable attention the crisis facing Skukuza Regional Court and the consequences of the decision to close it.

The survival of rhino in the Kruger National Park, firmly fixed in the global spotlight and bolstered by millions of Rands of government investment and donor support, now hangs in the balance after the recent decision to close Skukuza Regional Court.

Skukuza Regional Court has been recognised – both nationally and internationally – as the heart of the fight against rhino poaching in South Africa.

South Africa’s previous Minister of Environmental Affairs, the late Dr Edna Molewa, welcomed the opening of the Skukuza Regional Court in the Kruger National Park in April 2017 by stating “Having a Regional Court in Skukuza will ensure that the case turnaround times for rhino poaching and related cases are expedited thus making a significant contribution to tackling the illicit trade in rhino horn and any other related activities.”

Serious cases are trialed in the Skukuza Regional Court, including cases where suspects are linked to a poached rhino, where repeat offenders have been rearrested, where syndicates are involved and where rangers are arrested for rhino poaching. Seen in Parliament as the benchmark of good practices as to how the quality of rhino cases should be handled, the court has boasted a 99.8% conviction rate and up to recently had a 100% success rate in opposed bail applications.

Since its inception, the court has finalised approximately 80 cases, with convictions ranging between 12 and 40 years. There are currently 72 cases still on the court roll, with new cases being added almost weekly.

Concerted efforts to close the court, lurking since mid-2017, have now finally succeeded, with the court in Skukuza said to be closing at the beginning of October this year. Cases will be moved to Mhala Magistrate Court in Acornhoek.

Some identified consequences of the decision to move the court to Mhala are as follows:

Rangers testifying in court will need to travel vast distances to Mhala, taking them further away from their bases. This means that they are far away if needed in the veld, making it very difficult for them to get back quickly especially when there are poaching groups active in the park. Poachers take full advantage of court days, gaining specific information on which rangers are due in court and planning their poaching trips around this. Fewer rangers in the park with long travel times to return is a death sentence for rhinos.
Due to the lengthy sentences handed down in these cases, the legal defense practices all sorts of delay tactics for their suspected poacher clients. Rangers travelling to Mhala will spend a full unproductive workday sitting in court with the possibility of multiple trips given the length of these trials. Lost work hours and escalated travel costs add to already strained State resources. With the court in Skukuza as it has been rangers can go about their usual workday, be close to court, and also be close to their areas of operation if needed in an emergency.
Closing the Regional Court makes it extremely difficult for the Stock Theft Unit of SAPS to attend since the District Court has already, to a large extent, been moved to Bushbuckridge. Now the members have to attend court at Bushbuckridge as well as Mhala, both far from their office.
Transporting prisoners from Nelspruit prison to Mhala adds extra travelling for Skukuza SAPS.
The road to Mhala is under construction making it difficult to get to court on time.
There are very often riots in the Dwarsloop vicinity on route to Mhala. Depending on the reason for each riot, risk varies from time delays to damage to property, grievous bodily harm and loss of human life. This poses great risk to witnesses, expert witnesses and prosecutors.
As a result of carrying out their work duties, upholding the law and protecting our county’s national heritage, rangers who need to testify in court will now need to travel through these often hostile and high-risk environments. A number of rangers have been intimidated, received threats against their lives, or the lives of their family members, with some communities openly siding with the poachers. This in turn has a detrimental effect on ranger wellness and morale. Skukuza Court, located well within the Kruger National Park, has provided a much safer environment for rangers to testify.
Rangers are not allowed to carry their state weapons outside of the reserve, which renders them unarmed in a potentially dangerous environment.
International media groups who visit the court whilst in the Kruger National Park create ongoing global awareness for the plight of the rhino.

Rhino poaching is a National Priority Crime in South Africa. The illicit rhino horn trade is worth billions of dollars in profit to local and international organised criminal syndicates, of which the poachers entering the Kruger National Park are the first link in the supply chain.

The establishment of Skukuza Regional Court was one of several measures taken in terms of Government’s Integrated Strategic Management approach to combat rhino poaching.

Skukuza Regional Court has stood as a symbol for justice against those plundering these charismatic species in our flagship National Park, choosing to lay waste to our national heritage for their own personal gain and to the detriment of future generations.

The success of this court is a direct threat to locally based influential and powerful syndicates. The closure of this court will not only be a victory for these syndicates but will have a detrimental effect on the Kruger National Park’s rangers, its rhino population and the reputation of South Africa in the eyes of the world.

This petition is supported by:

StopRhinoPoaching.com

International Rhino Foundation

Save the Rhino

Game Rangers Association of Africa

Game Rangers Association of Africa – South Africa

Save the Waterberg Rhino

Care For Wild

Project Rhino KZN

PureWild Fund NPC

Chipembere Rhino Foundation

We ask everyone, around the world, to support this call to save Skukuza Regional Court. Should you chose to comment on this petition, please do so in a respectful, informed and credible manner.

*The Change.org petition site has a function whereby you can contribute a donation to Change.org to share this petition to a wider audience. If you chose to make a donation to Change.org, thank you, as we need as many signatures as possible. The other option, at no charge, is to share to your friends on Facebook. This petition is not about raising funds, its about making a noise that's so loud it cant be ignored - so sharing to your friends on Facebook is truly appreciated.
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Richprins
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Re: Save Skukuza Regional Court

Post by Richprins » Sat Feb 15, 2020 4:32 pm

Petition update



Decision to close Rhino Court is going to Court. We need your support for 24th February!
Elise Serfontein
South Africa

Feb 14, 2020 —

107 000 signatures and counting.
We are appealing to people around the world to sign our petition, which will be handed in on 24 February 2020 as part of the argument in support of saving the court. Each and every signature matters and rhinos and rangers need your voice.

Although Mpumalanga Judge President Legodi issued a directive on 2 December 2019 that the Skukuza Regional Court must continue, no cases have been transferred back as per his instructions and rangers are still being summonsed to appear in Mhala. The consequences of this are outlined in our petition linked below.

Regional Court President, Naomi Engelbrecht, made a low profile decision to close this world acclaimed court 5 months ago and has defied Judge Legodi's instruction since.

The Judge President of Mpumalanga has enrolled a special review application in the High Court to be adjudicated by the Full Bench of the Mpumalanga High Court on 24 February 2020. This application is basically to determine whether the Regional Court President was entitled to close the Skukuza Regional Court and whether the Court is legally proclamated or not.

The matter will be heard in the Mpumalanga High Court Building.

Please encourage signatures in these last few days leading up to the 24th.
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Alf
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Re: Save Skukuza Regional Court

Post by Alf » Sat Feb 15, 2020 7:01 pm

Signed the petition \O
Next trip to the bush??

Let me think......................

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Richprins
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Re: Save Skukuza Regional Court

Post by Richprins » Fri Feb 28, 2020 6:07 pm

The hearing happened on Monday, and crazy stuff came out. Will try to get some understanding, but there is areal fight amongst senior judicial officials about this. :-? 0-

Judgement is reserved.
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Lisbeth
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Re: Save Skukuza Regional Court

Post by Lisbeth » Fri Feb 28, 2020 6:09 pm

When the ego enters the common sense exits 0*\
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela
The desire for equality must never exceed the demands of knowledge

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Richprins
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Re: Save Skukuza Regional Court

Post by Richprins » Thu Apr 23, 2020 10:25 am

Judges slate Mpumalanga regional court president over court saga, inappropriate email

2020-04-22 22:36 | Buks Viljoen, Correspondent

"chose to ignore the directives" and "you will hear from me".

These were the words written by Naomi Engelbrecht, the regional court president of Mpumalanga, in an email she sent to Judge President Francis Legodi of the Mpumalanga High Court after she was slated by a full Bench in a verdict delivered in Mbombela on Wednesday.

The judges said the use of such language by Engelbrecht was inappropriate, disrespectful, and unnecessary belligerent towards Legodi.

She also irked the ministers of justice and environment, forestry and fisheries as well as the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions and environmentalists when she decided to close the Skukuza Regional Court.

Vital role

Over the years, the court has played a vital role in the fight against rhino poaching and bringing poachers to justice.

However, after two years of threatening to close it, Engelbrecht did just that with immediate effect in August last year.

She was of the view, among others, the court building had not been proclaimed a legitimate regional court.


Engelbrecht instructed all rhino-related cases to be moved to the court in Mhala, Bushbuck Ridge, which is about 100km from Skukuza.

Despite a public outcry against her decision, she refused to reverse it.

Reverse

After the crisis came to his attention, Legodi tried to convince Engelbrecht to reverse her decision as he believed she did not have the authority to make the call. She once again refused.

Legodi, as her senior in the justice system, then gave her official instructions (directives) to move the court back to Skukuza.

It was during this period that Engelbrecht told Legodi she "chose to ignore the directives". She also claimed he was not authorized to prescribe to her, as regional court president, what to do.

In December, when an urgent application was brought by the director of public prosecutions in the court in Mhala to have cases moved back to Skukuza, Engelbrecht decided to preside over the application herself.

She rejected it and, among others, said the directives given to her by Legodi to move the court and cases back to Skukuza was null and void, adding she would not implement them.

Conflict

Legodi then called for a motion to review the case and for the lingering conflict between him and Engelbrecht to be heard by a full Bench.

In February this year, the motion was brought in front of Judge Bernard Ngoepe, the retired judge president of the North Gauteng High Court, retired Judge Cynthia Pretorius and acting Judge Moira Mankge.

All parties involved in the motion, except for two, supported it.

Advocate Kgama Shai said in court he was appearing on behalf of rhino poachers as well as Engelbrecht.

In a unanimous verdict on Wednesday, the judges ruled the court in Skukuza was legitimate, the instruction given to Engelbrecht by Legodi was valid and binding, and her decision to reject the State's application to have cases moved back to Skukuza was invalid and thus overturned.

The judges also ordered the verdict should be forwarded to the magistrate's commission for further action.

Neither the commission nor Engelbrecht responded to questions sent to them.

https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News ... l-20200422
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Lisbeth
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Re: Save Skukuza Regional Court

Post by Lisbeth » Thu Apr 23, 2020 12:03 pm

All parties involved in the motion, except for two, supported it.
They were only four :-? Obviously this cannot be the case -O-

Seems that Ms. Engelbrecht is on her own all alone.....almost :twisted:
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela
The desire for equality must never exceed the demands of knowledge

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