11-year sentence for Kruger trespassing

2013-05-23 22:17

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Johannesburg - A man was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment by the Nelspruit Regional Court on Thursday for trespassing and carrying out a restricted activity in the Kruger National Park.

Abel Mfana Mashabane, 26, from Phalaborwa, pleaded guilty to charges of trespassing in a designated area, after he and his friends were caught walking through the park at Houtboschrand on 17 May 2012.

Mashabane was shot and wounded when he and his friends were detained by game rangers.

"Other rangers began assaulting me, accusing me of owning the rhino horn which I suspect was brought by them and was planted in my bag,” he told the court.

Mashabane had previously testified that rangers framed him. The court heard the rangers had seen the men trying to cross into Mozambique with a bag containing a rhino horn with a street value of R250 000.

During sentencing, Mashabane's lawyers said prison was not a place for his client as his hip was dislocated when he was detained.

“Prison will be worse for him as he has been on crutches since the day of arrest. He has acknowledged the seriousness of the offence he faces, and that rhinos get killed on daily basis,” his lawyer said.

State prosecutor Isbet Erwee said the court should not set Mashabane free because of his injuries as he would be cared for in prison.

"Luckily he lost his hip and not his life," she argued.

Magistrate Shila Msibi did not find Mashabane guilty of possession of a white rhino horn because neither the carcass nor killing site could be located. Msibi said she would not take an armchair approach as rhino killings were on the increase.

“It seems this year's rhino killings will exceed last year's statistic as currently, it stands to 238."

She sentenced Mashabane to eight years for carrying out a restricted activity in a designated area, and three years for trespassing.

The sentences will be served consecutively.

Mashabane's lawyer indicated his client would appeal the sentence on 4 June.

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