Pretoria: 2 September 2015 – Two suspected rhino poachers have been sentenced to a total of 11 years imprisonment for their crimes. Phinias Sithole (23) and France Nkuna (22), who are Mozambican nationals, were convicted and sentenced at the White River Magistrate Court on Monday, 31 August 2015, after being arrested in the Kruger National Park on 27 October 2014.
The pair was discovered by field rangers in the Lower Sabi section of the Kruger National Park. They were armed with a hunting rifle and an axe and were apprehended on the scene and taken into custody where they were charged with possession of unlicensed firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition as well as trespassing. They have been sentenced to five years imprisonment for possession of unlicensed firearm, five years imprisonment for unlawful possession of ammunition and one year imprisonment for trespassing; totalling 11 years for each.
Protecting the country’s wildlife is a priority crime for the South African Police Service and this conviction is indicative of how our members work tirelessly to ensure that criminals pay for their crimes. This conviction will serve as a deterrent to other would-be poachers; they will know that the task teams will stop them in the tracks even before committing the crime.
Just this year, the country has already lost 749 rhinos due to poachers and 544 of those are from the Kruger National Park. The number might have been higher had it not been for the work that the task teams perform around the clock to protect our wildlife. Many poachers are apprehended before committing the crime and because of such arrests and convictions many more will be deterred.