Provincial Commissioner welcomes the sentencing of poachers

NELSPRUIT – The Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela has welcomed the efforts made in dealing with poaching. This comes in the wake of a sentence that was handed down by the Skukuza Regional Court to three poachers who pleaded guilty to all charges leveled against them on Tuesday, 24 May 2022.

The three are said to have been engaged in rhino poaching at the Kruger National Park. On 19 March 2017 it is said that field rangers that were deployed that day to guard at Stohlsnek Section of the park heard sounds of gunshots in the Biyamiti area. They then responded and mobilized their counterparts to assist. Three intruders were then traced and apprehended.

During their capture, a hunting rifle with no serial numbers was recovered together with 7 cartridges as well as two fresh rhino horns and an axe in their possession. The three were identified as Richard Mkhombo, aged 39, Oscar Ndlovu, aged 38 and Isaac Zitha, aged 41.

The police at Skukuza were notified about the incident and upon their arrival, the suspects were arrested and charged accordingly.

During their appearance in court they were granted bail. Whilst on bail, the accused (except Mkhombo) went on with poaching whereby on 12 May 2018 field rangers deployed at Kingfisherspruit Section of the Kruger National Park noticed human tracks which signaled to them that there were possible intruders in the park.

A follow-up was made whereby three suspects were cornered and then got caught up in a shootout with the field rangers. Two of the intruders sustained injuries during the gun battle.

The three were subsequently apprehended and found to be in possession of four fresh rhino horns, a hunting rifle with no serial numbers as well as some ammunition.

Police at Skukuza were informed about this incident. Upon their arrival, the three suspects were arrested and charged accordingly. However, one of the accused, Given Zitha, who is originally from the country of Mozambique and was in South Africa illegally (together with other three suspects not related to poaching case) escaped from lawful custody in Nelspruit on 17 January 2019 during the time when he was coming back from court.

The said cases of poaching were probed by a team of experts from Skukuza Stock Theft Unit. The investigators worked tirelessly and presented overwhelming evidence against the accused before court. This has left the accused with no option but to plead guilty (on Tuesday, 24 May 2022) to all charges against them, which include trespassing, possession of prohibited firearm, possession of unlicensed ammunition, hunting of rhino in the park, and possession of dangerous weapon.

Richard Mkhombo was sentenced to an effective 21 years imprisonment meanwhile Oscar Ndlovu and Isaac Zitha were sentenced to an effective 38 years imprisonment for their share in rhino poaching.

The Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela has further expressed her contentment with the gesture displayed by the court in dealing decisively with poachers. “We are very much excited with the manner in which our courts compliment the work that is being done by law enforcement agencies including the field rangers, the investigation team, the Prosecution team and the Judiciary. Collaboratively these stakeholders have shown determination, consistency and unwavering approach to poaching. Their work should indeed be commended” said the General.

Source: South African Police Service

Human Rights