Tree thieves get heavy sentences

2008-05-15 00:00

A KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife inspector praised the Mzimkhulu Circuit High Court in southern KZN for setting a precedent after it handed down heavy sentences to six men yesterday convicted of stealing 89 protected indigenous trees.

Brothers Pierre and Morne Terblanche from Mooi River, and their father Victor, were each given 14-year sentences of which six years were suspended for five years.

Their three accomplices, Inkosi Wilson Nhlabathi of the Malenge Tribal Authority, his treasurer Simphiwe Satshwa, and tribal secretary Eric Sithole, were each sentenced to eight years, of which three were suspended for five years.

"With these sentences the precedent has been set for the first time in order to prevent the purchase of indigenous forests," said Evemvelo investigator Rod Potter.

Judge J. Miller heard that the Terblanches secured an illegal deal to purchase yellowwood logs from Nhlabathi, Satchwa and Sithole, who were each paid R15 000.

The logs, worth R389 000, were cut from Gonqogonqo State Forest, which is protected by Ezemvelo. The offenders were also punished for damage done during the timber cutting, described as "enormous" by Potter.

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