Rhino hunter jailed for poaching and murder of accomplice

2013-06-21 00:00

A RHINO poacher who was also convicted of the murder of his accomplice, who was shot by game rangers in Ndumo game reserve in November 2011, was yesterday effectively jailed for 21 years.

Wawito Mawala was found guilty by Ingwavuma regional court magistrate, M. A. Khumalo on charges of hunting a rhino — even though no rhino was actually shot — as well as the murder of his accomplice during their illegal foray into the game park.

The court found that he must have foreseen that his accomplice, Erasmo Mazivele, could be killed while embarking on their common design to illegally hunt a rhino in the game reserve.

Mawala was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for Mazivele’s murder, to nine years’ imprisonment for illegally hunting a rhino and to one year in jail for trespassing in the reserve. Four years of the sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

The court accepted submissions by state advocate Yuri Gengai that just because no rhino was killed, this didn’t mean the accused and his accomplices were not hunting that day.

Rhino are specially protected game and may not be hunted without a valid permit.

The court rejected Mawala’s claims that he was falsely implicated in the offences; that he was forced to make a confession; and that he was on his way to Durban to look for employment, and didn’t know he was in a game reserve when he was spotted by rangers and arrested.

It was found that Mawala and three others were in Ndumo Game Reserve on the evening of November 19, 2011 for the purpose of hunting a white rhino. It was then also found that they had pursued a rhino, which subsequently ran past two game rangers on patrol.

Mazivele, who was armed at the time with a bolt-action rifle, was shot dead during a subsequent confrontation with the rangers, while all his companions fled.

Mawala was arrested inside the game reserve the next day.

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