Poacher appeals conviction

2014-11-21 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG high court judges yesterday reserved judgment in an appeal by a man convicted of rhino poaching. Ngemfu Khoza was among two men found guilty by an Ulundi regional magistrate of shooting and de-horning a white rhino in the Imfolozi Game Reserve on Christmas day, 2009.

They were jailed for five years for ­hunting a rhino and 15 years for unlawful possession of two rifles and ammunition.

Three poachers, including Khoza and his co-accused, Sibusiso Luthuli, were involved in a shootout with game rangers. Khoza and Luthuli were wounded while the third poacher was killed.

Rangers recovered two rifles, ammunition and an axe from the men. The next day the carcass of a white rhino bull was found about a kilometre from the scene of the shootout.

Khoza was refused leave to appeal against his conviction for hunting the ­rhino, and is only appealing against his ­conviction and sentences for unlawful possession of a .308 rifle and a 30-06 rifle and ammunition.

For hunting rhino, Ulundi magistrate Madlala Xolo sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment, and for unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition he was handed 15 years.

Khoza’s attorney Kelvin Singh has now argued that the evidence of game rangers that they saw Khoza in possession of a firearm that night is not credible because the incident happened at night and they could only see with torches.

But state advocate Nic de Klerk submitted that Khoza is guilty of “jointly” ­possessing the firearms and ammunition along with his fellow poachers.

Judges Rashid Vahed and Peter Olsen will hand down a written judgment in due course.

MEANWHILE, a Vryheid regional court magistrate this week sentenced ­Dumisani Sithole to four years in jail for conspiracy to poach a rhino at Mkhuze Falls Private Game Reserve near Pongola.

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