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MBABANE - Investigations into the theft and illegal sale of Green Chert have led to the arrest of two police officers, who are now facing a charge of corruption.

Green Chert is a type of Quartz, with a very good quality; It can be used for the manufacturing of artifacts and even jewellery. The lower quality is also used in construction. The rock is polished and used to make jewellery. It is also used for paving by high-end property owners.
The two police officers, Constable Mancoba Peter Vilakati (40), who is based at Pigg’s Peak Police Station and Sergeant Bakhona Nick Moyane, who works under the Royal Residence Protection Unit, were arrested by their colleagues from the Organised Crime Unit,  known as ‘Tingculungculu’, on Wednesday.


They were subsequently detained at the Mbabane Police Station and they made their maiden court appearance at the Mbabane Magistrates Court yesterday. Notably, Moyane is one of the police officers who were recently promoted from being a constable to sergeant. Investigations by the police revealed that the two police officers took the Green Chert from suspects, but instead of taking it to the police station, they allegedly hid it at a certain homestead and later solicited a buyer. The police officers are alleged to have not arrested the suspects after taking the Green Chert from them.


It is alleged that it was after they had secured a buyer, who was a foreigner, around Ezulwini, that they allegedly organised people to go and fetch the Green Chert from the homestead where they were hiding it. After collecting it, the transporters are said to have proceeded to deliver it to the potential buyer. They were, however, caught by the police around Mvutjini while on their way to deliver the consignment to the waiting buyer.

Upon being intercepted by the police at Mvutjini, the transporters then revealed that they had allegedly been sent by the accused persons (Vilakati and Moyane), to go and deliver the consignment to a Chinese businessperson around Ezulwini. They now stand accused of having contravened Section 21(2) (a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 2006.  This section provides that: “A public officer who, whether in Eswatini or elsewhere, solicits or accepts any advantage as an inducement to or reward for or otherwise on an account of the public officer commits an offence.”

“The accused persons are charged with the offence of contravening Section 21(2) (a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 2006, in that upon or about July 30, 2023, near Luhlangotsini/Eluswekweni in the Hhohho Region, acting jointly in furtherance of a common purpose, unlawfully solicited an advantage as an inducement in the performance of their duties as police officers,” reads part of the charge sheet.

The illegal mining of the stone is rife around Malolotja Nature Reserve, where there are mountains full of the green stone. Illegal miners steal the stones in loads of 30 kilogrammes per person. It was gathered that they can steal as much as a tonne per day. They are paid about E20 per kilogramme.
The mountains where the stones are situated are near the borderline with South Africa (SA). After illegally mining the rock, they transport it into SA, where they are paid in cash.

Despite the loud activities which are said to be audible at a nearby army camp stationed within the nature reserve, the illegal miners continue without worrying about the army men. This publication gathered that there were concerns from the rangers at the reserve that despite the presence of soldiers, the criminal activities continued daily.It was also gathered that at the beginning of 2021, a soldier was found standing near where the illegal miners were mining the rock. The soldier is said to have been discovered by game rangers, who asked him why he had not taken action.

Though the illegal miners are paid a meagre E20 per kilogramme, each person can carry as much as 30kg, meaning they earn as much as E600.
Despite the low price of the rock, when exported overseas, the rock can generate over a thousand times more profit than what the illegal miners are paid. It was previously reported that rangers at the reserve had reported that SA nationals entered the country in groups of between 20 and 30 to steal the Green Chert. Each person can carry as much as 30kg in a backpack while navigating the mountainous terrain back into the country.

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