Mmegi Online :: Verbatim: The words of a predator smuggler
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Last Updated
Wednesday 27 July 2016, 06:00 am.
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Verbatim: The words of a predator smuggler

This is an exclusive interview with Blackie Afrikaner (not his real name), a predator smuggler of eight long years in Tsabong who says he has retired from the business of catching Botswana’s big cats – lions and cheetahs –for “Boers across the border in South Africa” because, although he was driven into it by poverty, he is terrified of going jail
By Zolani Kraai Fri 25 Oct 2013, 17:02 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Verbatim: The words of a predator smuggler








Mmegi: Would you kindly tell us where you live and what you do for a living?

I am a small-scale farmer who spends most of his time at the cattle post when big cat buyers from South Africa do not keep me busy. One used to have a farm near McCarthy’s Rust but has since moved, but another one has a joint venture on his farm somewhere there not far from the border inside South Africa (names of the two farmers who also own farms at Khweyane just west of Tsabong in Botswana withheld).

Mmegi: So is it true that you are in the business of smuggling big cats across the border?

BF: Yes I was, but I have since quit. I quit when I was fined P5,000 after I pleaded guilty in one of the ongoing marathon cases of predator smuggling. I was fined P5,000 along with three others at the end of 2012.

It was really frightening to stand in the dock after eight years of my involvement in the crime. I also got a suspended sentence, which changed my life completely. I had offered to become an accomplice witness but the prosecutor ignored my request.

Mmegi: Why did you want to become an accomplice witness?

BF: I did not waste the court’s time during the investigations and I also realised that age was catching up with me. The circumstances that had led us to commit the crime were serious and I could see myself going to jail for many years, leaving my family to suffer alone.  

Mmegi: Can you tell us about your network? How wide is it - locally and internationally?

BF: Well, my homeboys. Cousins, some of them have passed on, but there are two Boers that I still communicate with in this business.

Mmegi: Your homeboy is awaiting a ruling in the same case you were involved in. How do you think it’ll turn out?

BF: This guy did not listen to me right from the beginning. My instincts were telling me that something was not going according to plan, but the guy went ahead with the plan. I was a part of the plan, but the delay by our client from South Africa raised so much suspicion. That is why I ran away before the arrest. The gunshots were terrifying.

Mmegi: Gunshots? What gunshots?

BF: The two South Africans, an Indian and Black fellow (names withheld) who had come to collect the two cheetahs.

I

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have retired but my homeboys are still active. You can be sure that as I speak to you, they are busy planning something. One of the Boers who own farms at Khweyane still constantly asks me to hunt for him.

Mmegi: Let’s go to the beginning. What really prompted you to venture into predator smuggling?

BF: Poverty. I could not provide for my family, and the money those guys gave us was really enticing. We used to make a killing - P10,000 or P15,000 per trip per animal. One can make around P25,000 nowadays. But that’s nothing compared to what these Boers make: R250,000 per cat!

Mmegi: You once escaped from a police ambush near Taylor’s Pan. You want to tell us more?

BF: The security guys came up with a brilliant plan but I still beat them (laughs heartily). I was later caught and interrogated but freed due to lack of evidence linking me to the crime.

Another Boer from the Draihoek/Makopong area whom we were with also escaped and skipped the border fence near Taylor’s Pan. I was terrified because the gunshots and the flashlights were all over. The twin cab Hilux we were using was riddled with bullets.

Mmegi: Can you tell us how you guys catch the big cats?

BF: It is very easy. Cool as a cat, especially the cheetahs. All you do is chase it with a vehicle until it flops in a heap from fatigue. It just lies down helplessly as you put a blanket over its head. You need a blanket because you don’t want your eyes to be in direct contact with the cheetah’s eyes because it could wake from its slumber and attack you.

After thus blindfolding the animal, you tie it up with ropes on its legs and paws and then put it in a sack the way you do with your domestic cat.

Mmegi: What does the future hold for you? Are you willing to work with the authorities to expose the syndicates?

BF: Absolutely. I don’t want to rot in jail. I have kids to take care of. Some of the syndicates are in Bogogobo, Middlepits and Kolonkwaneng. Some are right here in Tsabong but you cannot tell them apart from everybody else.

They venture out when the bars close and return in the early mornings to continue with their normal lives. Some are public servants, among them BX drivers, council employees and wildlife officers.

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