KZN DPP welcomes rhino poachers' sentencing as a good deterrent

2019-03-28 21:21
Rhino horn recovered in the KZN arrests. (Supplied: SAPS)

Rhino horn recovered in the KZN arrests. (Supplied: SAPS)

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The Director of Public Prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal believes the sentences imposed on three convicted rhino poachers in the province will deter other poachers from hunting or killing the endangered animals.

On Tuesday, 50-year-old Muntugowakhe Khoza was sentenced to 14 years behind bars and his co-accused, Ayanda Buthelezi, 40 and SANDF officer Mduduzi Xulu, 51, received wholly suspended sentences and hefty fines after they were caught red-handed in a roadblock in possession of rhino horns.

The prosecutions head in the province, advocate Moipone Noko, said they welcomed the sentences and convictions.

"Rhinos are on the endangered species list and we have a duty and a mandate to protect and preserve them. I trust the sentence will serve as a deterrent to poachers. Congratulations to the prosecution on a job well done," Noko added.

The men were arrested in August 2009 after rangers at the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park heard gunshots in the park. They alerted senior officials who alerted the police.

READ: Three KZN rhino poachers convicted after 10-year trial 

A roadblock was set-up on the only road leading to and from the park. The accused were arrested while still wearing blood stained clothes and in possession of a .303 rifle, rhino horns and two bloodied axes.

The following month, they were granted bail of R10 000 each, despite opposition from wildlife investigators.

KwaZulu-Natal NPA spokesperson Natasha Kara said senior State advocate Yuri Gangai led DNA evidence linking the rhino horns to a rhino carcass found in the park.

"While the other two accused maintained their innocence, saying that they did not know Buthelezi well, Gangai led cellphone evidence showing that the three men were in contact with each other prior to, during and after the commission of the crime," she said.

Muntugowakhe was sentenced to an effective 14 years behind bars while Buthelezi and Xulu were each given a wholly suspended 10-year imprisonment sentence and fines of R6 000 and R8 000 respectively.

"The court heard that Muntugowakhe had other rhino-related previous convictions. Incidentally, during this trial, he was serving a 7-year sentence for a rhino-poaching incident in Utrecht. The court viewed this in a serious light," said Kara.

Read more on:    durban  |  courts

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