Man fined and jailed for cycads offence

2010-06-21 00:00

A MAN was fined R30 000 or six years’ imprisonment, of which R25 000 and five years’ imprisonment were conditionally suspended, after admitting that he was responsible for illegally harvesting three Natal Giant Cycads — which are specially protected indigenous plants — without a permit.

The cycads were dug out in the Hopewell area near Thornville on December 15 last year.

Mlungisi Sokhela (34) of Sweetwaters arrived at a plea agreement with the state, pleading guilty in the regional court to three contraventions of the Natal Nature Conservation Ordinance last week.

In his plea, he stated he went to Hopewell on the day in question with several people whom he had employed in order to gather indigenous plants in the area. He admitted he did not have a valid permit and had not obtained permission from the landowner to gather the indigenous cycads.

“I instructed my employees to assist me to dig out three indigenous cycads, which we did and which were loaded onto a vehicle. While en route home I was approached by members of the South African Police Services who conducted a search of the vehicle and discovered the three indigenous cycads.”

He said he was aware at the time that the cycads were specially protected indigenous plants and that digging them out is unlawful. He said he is self-employed “doing garden services for various people”.

Sokhela said he is “ashamed and embarrassed in the manner that I have acted”, that he has learnt from the experience and that he will not engage in criminal behaviour in future.

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