Pretoria: Today, the Acting National Head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Major General Yoliswa Siyotula, applauded the Organised Crime Unit of the Hawks in Mpumalanga for securing two convictions against two rhino poachers.

Yesterday, the White River Periodical Court handed down an eight-year sentence to Alvao Fagustino Sifundza from Mozambique for rhino poaching. Sifundza, aged 31, was arrested in the Tshokwane area of the Kruger National Park on 12 April 2014 after a chase by the park’s field rangers. His accomplice fled. He was found in possession of a high caliber hunting rifle, rounds of ammunition, a silencer, an axe and a number of items of clothing. Yesterday, the court sentenced him as follows: One year’s imprisonment for trespassing, five years’ imprisonment for the possession of unlicensed firearms and two years’ imprisonment for the unlawful possession of ammunition. The court further said that the sentence on the trespassing and unlawful possession of ammunition would run concurrently with the sentence of the possession of unlicensed firearms. Sifundza was also declared unfit to possess a firearm.

In another case of rhino poaching in the Nelspruit Regional court on Monday this week, a Vietnamese national, Ngoc Cuong Pham, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and fined R1 million for dealing in and for being in possession of a rhino horn. Ngoc was also sentenced to another five years for racketeering, of which three years were suspended for five years. He was arrested with his 13 accomplices in Bedfordview in May 2012 after they were found to be in possession of a rhino horn. The case against the other accused has been postponed to 4 November 2014 for a trial date.

General Siyotula said: “We have a responsibility to protect our wildlife from people such as Sifundza and Ngoc, and to warn other poachers out there that we mean business.”