A Mpumalanga herbalist who supplied traditional healers may have graduated to dealing in illegal rhino horn, according to court prosecutors.
But the accused's mother and a customer say they know nothing of that.
Simon Ngomane, 34, appeared in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Tuesday, September 27. Ngomane was shot in the leg and arrested following a shootout with rangers in the Tikwana area of the Kruger National Park on December 11 2011.Two of his accomplices escaped.
But a traditional healer has told the magistrate that the accused was merely a herbalist who sold traditional herbs.
"I have been buying from him since 2008 until 2011, when he disappeared," said Bernard Mathebula.
The traditional healer said he and his colleagues had been buying herbs from the accused during pension pay-outs every month.
He told the court he would not comment on the rhino horn found in his possession, and that he knew nothing of that.
"I have no other relationship with the accused, except that I was his customer," said Mathebula.
State prosecutor Isabet Erwee said Mathebula was traced by the accused and asked to come to court and testify.
Netta Ndlovu, the accused’s mother said he lived with her at their home in Clara Trust.
"I last saw him in December, prior to his arrest. When he left he said he was going to dig for herbs at Justicia. He carried a pick and a green sack used for chicken feed, which he used to carry the herbs," she said.
The mother said she had not seen him since until two days later, when she received a phone call that he had been arrested.
"I was informed he had been arrested at Tikwana for poaching rhino," his mother said.
Ndlovu said her son had been digging and selling herbs to traditional healers and the community for a long time. She said she would not comment on the charges he faced, because she knew nothing of that.
"Your son ended up in the Kruger Park according to witnesses. He was poaching rhino with two other friends," Erwee told the mother.
Ngomane faced charges of illegal entry into the Kruger Park, hunting of rhino, and theft of rhino horn. He had been remanded in custody and the case was postponed until October 3 for arguments.