CAPE TOWN - The 85-year sentence handed to each of the convicted rhino poachers and Mozambican nationals, Arlindo Muhlanga, Adam Hlongwane and Gamula Chauke reflects the severity of the crimes involved in the poaching of animals in South Africa, says the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE).
The three were sentenced by the Mogwase Regional Court in North West on Wednesday.
The sentence was ordered to run concurrently. The court took into account the fact that the three had been imprisoned for three years while awaiting completion of their trial. They will effectively serve 35 years in prison. All three poachers have been declared unfit to possess a firearm.
“This reflects the severity of the crimes involved in the poaching of rhino in South Africa and sends a clear message to those involved in these unlawful activities. The men were arrested in 2018 following the poaching and dehorning of three rhino cows in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, said DFFE spokesperson Albi Modise.
They were found in possession of six rhino horns, an axe, firearms and ammunition. The bakkie they were travelling in was also confiscated.
They were each convicted on 10 charges, including illegal hunting of the three white rhino cows, illegally chopping off of rhino horns, illegal possession and conveyancing of six rhino horn in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and trespassing in a protected area.
Recently, the Skukuza Regional Court recently sentenced Simon Mahumbane Lubisi to 19 years in prison in relation to the killing of a white rhinoceros in the Lower Sabi section in the Kruger National Parker October 2014. He was sentenced to three years for trespassing in the national park.
On the count of hunting of rhinos in the national park, Lubisi was sentenced to 10 years. He was further sentenced to five years for conspiracy to commit a crime.
The court also gave him another year for being in possession of a dangerous weapon.
Rangers from the Crocodile Bridge, Lower Sabi and Skukuza on duty that day were on high alert after the incident and as they were patrolling the area, they came across a group of suspected poachers.
“That encounter was followed by a gun battle resulting in one of the poachers being fatally wounded while Lubisi was among the three that were arrested. The accused as well as two of his teammates were granted bail when they appeared in court but thereafter they absconded. After failing to attend court, warrants of arrest were issued against them. A manhunt was then launched for the three men and in 2019 Lubisi was arrested but his fellows are still at large,” said police spokesperson Donald Mdhluli.