The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in Mpumalanga has successfully prosecuted suspects in two long-standing rhino poaching trials in the Mhala Regional Court; a victory that was yesterday welcomed by the South African National Parks (SANParks).
Three suspects who were arrested in August 2018 were sentenced in February 2021 after they were found guilty of rhino poaching related charges, reports the South African Government News Agency.
The charges included the possession of two sets of rhino horns, a high calibre hunting rifle, ammunition and trespassing in a national park with the intention of committing a crime and the illegal hunting of an endangered animal.
They were arrested by SANParks Rangers in the Houtboschrand section of the Kruger National Park (KNP) after reacting to shots that were fired.
“Accused number one, Peter Mathebula was given an effective sentence of 23 years behind bars while the two co-accused, Mustard Mathebula and Artur Valoyi, were sentenced to an effective four years in jail,” stated the agency.
This week, Bennet Martin Lubisi and Bennet Johannes Bendane – whose rhino poaching case dates back to 2016 – were sentenced to eight years of jail time for poaching related charges.
The agency stated, “They were found guilty of trespassing in a national park, possession of an unlicensed firearm [and] ammunition with the intention to commit a crime. They were arrested before they could kill an animal.”
Gareth Coleman, Managing Executive of the KNP said, “Although it has taken some time, we are proud of the work done by the rangers, the investigating and prosecuting teams under very difficult circumstances.
“Successes of this nature show the importance of co-operation between the various state agencies to help combat the assault on the rhino population in the Kruger National Park.”
Coleman hopes that the many other outstanding cases are concluded as soon as possible in order to act as a deterrent to those involved.