The Mogwase Regional Court in the North West has handed hefty jail terms to Mozambican nationals Arlendo Mhlanga, Adam Hlongwane and Inancio Chauke after the trio were convicted on charges related to rhino poaching, which took place at the Pilansberg Game Reserve in the province.
The three Mozambicans were arrested on 2 July 2018 as they tried to leave the game reserve in a white Ford bakkie loaded with stolen rhino horns valued at R1,5 million, according to spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority in the North West, Henry Mamothame.
After their arrest, the three sought to be released on bail, but it was denied. They remained in police custody until the completion of the trial.
“Mhlanga and his co-accused were charged on three counts of illegally killing three female rhinos, possession of a prohibited firearm, possession of ammunition, possession of six rhino horns, chopping six rhino horns from three rhino carcasses intentionally, and unlawfully conveying six rhino horns, theft of three rhino horns, and also charged for entering the heritage site without written permission,” said Mamothame.
From the 10 charges the three were facing, the court sentenced them to a cumulative 85 years imprisonment. However, the court ordered for some sentences to run concurrently.
“Mhlanga and his co-accused will then spend an effective 35 years in prison for the crimes they committed. The court also declared them unfit to possess firearms. The Ford bakkie and other items that were in their possession are also forfeited to the state,” said Mamothame.
In aggravation of sentence, advocate Douw Jacobs for the prosecution urged the court to consider the evidence submitted by conservation experts on the extinction of the rhino population and its impact.
“He argued that rhino poaching impacts negatively to the tourism industry and the economy of the country as it results in job losses,” said Mamothame.
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