Molewa welcomes poacher arrests

By Drum Digital
18 April 2013

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has welcomed the arrest and prosecution of six men for rhino poaching.

"The handing down of stiffer sentences to poachers and the seizure of assets of poaching accused should serve as a message to potential poachers that everything possible will be done to ensure the protection of South Africa's rhino population," her office said in a statement on Thursday.

Police said on Wednesday that five of the six men arrested for poaching two rhino in Limpopo over the Easter weekend would remain in jail until their next court appearance.

Davide Rebefe, 27, Bethuel Rethlangu, 24, John Ratafu, 45, Samson Simunu, 38, and Jafta Setlengu, 35, would be back in the Mokopane Magistrate's Court on April 29, said Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.

The sixth man was under police protection.

They were arrested at the weekend after police discovered two rhino had been shot and de-horned.

"The group was arrested on Sunday after allegedly killing a rhino and wounding another in Naboomspruit (Mookgopong) in early April this year," Mulaudzi said.

One rhino died, but the other survived and was recovering from two bullet wounds.

Police arrested two men in Naboomspruit and seized an AK-47 assault rifle. Further investigation resulted in another four arrests in Soshanguve, north west of Pretoria.

"Another AK-47 was seized and police recovered R46,000 in cash from the suspects," Mulaudzi said.

Molewa said the arrests brought to 66 the number of people arrested since the start of the year for rhino poaching.

She also welcomed the 15-year sentence handed down by the Phalaborwa Regional Court to two men caught poaching rhino on a private game farm near Hoedspruit, Limpopo in 2011.

Molewa also welcomed a decision by the High Court in Pretoria to grant a preservation of assets order to the National Prosecuting Authority and the Asset Forfeiture Unit against suspected rhino poaching ring-leader Joseph Nyalunga.

-by Sapa

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