Rhino poacher’s conviction confirmed

2015-08-14 08:19
Northern-white-rhino. (File, AFP)

Northern-white-rhino. (File, AFP)

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HIGH court judges yesterday confirmed the convictions of a man who was jailed for poaching a white rhino and removing its horns in Imfolozi Game Reserve on Christmas Day in 2009.

The appeal court, however, reduced the effective jail sentence the poacher will serve from 20 years’ to 12 years’ imprisonment.

Ngemfu Khoza and his co-accused Sibusiso Luthuli (who did not appeal), were both found guilty of entering the game reserve at night, shooting a white rhino and removing its horns with an axe. The carcass of the rhino was found the next day after a ground and air search.

The accused were arrested during a ­shootout with game rangers inside the reserve that night.

Both Khoza and Luthuli were wounded during the gun battle with rangers, and a third poacher was killed. Two firearms, ammunition, an axe and two rhino horns were found in their possession.

Pieces of rhino meat were also removed from Khoza’s pockets.

A ranger testified at the trial that the authorities were alerted by the sound of gunshots and went to investigate. While he and other rangers were busy examining footprints near the fence they heard voices.

He switched on his flashlight and saw three men in the reserve. Two were armed with firearms and the third had an axe.

The men were instructed to throw down their weapons but responded by cocking their guns and pointing them at the rangers, who then opened fire.

Judge Rashid Vahed with Judge Peter Olsen said in a reserved judgment the trial magistrate at Eshowe was right to convict Khoza and Luthuli of the various offences, as each of the trio depended on one another to achieve their joint aim, which was the felling of the rhino and taking its horns.

However, in their view they said the magistrate ought to have ordered that the sentences imposed for unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition should run concurrently with each other (though not with the main charge of hunting the rhino and removing its horns).

They said that by not doing so they believed the magistrate had been influenced by the accused’s conviction for the actual poaching of the rhino, which was unfair

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  rhino  |  court

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