Plant thieves face two years’ house arrest

2010-03-25 00:00

THREE men found guilty of illegally harvesting protected indigenous plants near Hilton College in August 2006 will undergo two years under correctional supervision — including house arrest — as a condition of the suspended sentences imposed on them by Pietermaritzburg magistrate Judy Gurie.

Traditional healer Tsele Joseph Tsukulu (43), Tsiliso Daniel Mofokeng (20) and Tankiso Philip Mofokeng (49) were convicted of four counts of unlawfully gathering protected indigenous plants, unlawful possession of the plants, trespassing for the purposes of gathering the plants and possession of protected plants without permits.

When arrested, they had a bag containing several indigenous roots and bulbs, including a rare bulb, Boobhane disticha.

The men were arrested by James Wakelin of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife after his wife had spotted them digging out the plants in a protec­ted area.

Gurie sentenced all three to three years’ imprisonment, conditionally suspended for five years. They must spend two years under correctional supervision, including house arrest, and do 16 hours of community service monthly.

They were also ordered to take part in a programme focused on the sustainable use and protection of indigenous plants. They will visit an indigenous nursery and be taught how to grow indigenous plant species used for muthi for themselves.

Indigenous bulbs and roots are a common ingredient in traditional medicine and are in increasing danger of becoming extinct.

EKZNW hopes to raise awareness that the collection of wild plants is detrimental.

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