The tireless joint efforts by members of the Lehurutshe Stock Theft Unit together with the Madikwe Game Reserve’s Rangers, finally paid off after Zeerust Regional Court convicted four rhino poachers on Wednesday, 28 November 2018.

On Saturday, 24 June 2017, the team acted on information received regarding suspects who were in the park, poaching rhinos.  A search was conducted inside the park during the day and at night resulting in the arrest of two suspects who were found in possession of an unlicensed .375 firearm, homemade silencer and knives.  During investigation, the team came across one injured rhino.  Further investigation led to the arrest of one Itali Lodge Tracker and the local village chief, who was responsible for organising and accommodating poachers at the village.  The accused were sentenced as follows:

Accused number 1 – Jetro Moyagabo Malema alias Jet (44) was found guilty of the following:

  • Count 1: Contravention of section 57 (1) of National Environmental Management: Biodiversity (NEMBA) Act, 2004 (Act 10 of 2004); poaching the endangered species;
  • Count 2: Contravention of section 46 (1) of NEMBA Act, 2003 (Act 57 of 2003), entering or residing without permission;
  • Count 4: Contravention of section 3 of Firearms Control Act, 2000 (Act 60 of 2000), illegal possession of firearm;
  • Count 5: Contravention of section 90 of Firearms Control Act, 2000 (Act 60 of 2000), illegal possession of ammunition;

The accused was sentenced as follows:

  • Count 1: Ten years imprisonment of which four years suspended for five years;
  • Count 3: Three years imprisonment;
  • Count 4: Four years imprisonment;
  • Count 5: Two years imprisonment.

Counts 3, 4 and 5 are to run concurrently with the sentence imposed on count 1. The accused will first have to complete his parole in 2021 and then this new sentence of six years imprisonment will start.

Accused number two, George Itumeleng Thutlwa (32) and accused number three, Joseph Kgosietsile Tsiepe (41) were both sentenced to four (4) years imprisonment or alternatively a fine of R200 000 of which R150 000 or three years imprisonment for conspiracy to commit an offence in terms of section 57(1) of NEMBA Act, (Act 10 of 2004) applies.  Their sentence is suspended for five years on condition that they do not commit the same offence.  The accused were ordered to pay R50 000 and they made arrangements to pay a monthly amount of R5 000 for the next ten months starting from 31 December 2018.

All three accused were declared unfit to possess a firearm. Consequently, Joseph Kgosietsile Tsiepe (41) was ordered to surrender his firearm with immediate effect.

The fourth accused in this case, Afonso Alberto Balate (44), was sentenced on 1 December 2017 after pleading guilty and turned state witness.  He was sentenced on count 1 to eight years imprisonment, contravention of section 57 (1) of NEMBA Act, 2004 (Act 10 of 2004), and poaching endangered species.  Six years of the sentence have been suspended for five years on condition that the accused does not commit the same offence.  He was also sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for contravention of section 46 (1) of NEMBA Act, (Act 57 of 2003), entering or residing without permission. The two (2) sentences will run concurrently.

The North West provincial commissioner, lieutenant general Baile Motswenyane, lauded the police and game rangers for their collaborative efforts that have led to the successful arrest, conviction and sentencing of the accused for wildlife related crimes.  She said that the police working together with other relevant stakeholders and members of the community, will show no mercy to criminals. – SAPS

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