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2022/03/14      |  Written By:  Colonel D Mdhluli   |   Province:  Mpumalanga

Nelspruit : 25  February 2022 – The Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela has been delighted with the sentence that was imposed upon two rhino poachers. The two men were sentenced by the Skukuza Regional Court on 24 February 2022.

The court sentenced Michael Chauke (57) and Americo Mathonsi (59) following their share in rhino poaching as well as killing of rhinos at the Kruger National Park. It is said that on 22 May 2019 at around 09h25 am the two accused men were part of an orchestrated plan of entering the park in order to kill and dehorn rhinos.

The accused men are said to have then carried out their plan where they entered Satara Section inside the Kruger National Park. Rangers heard some gunshots and then followed the direction of where the sound was coming from. Upon arrival at the scene, they (rangers) then found a rhinoceros lying motionless with gunshot wound. On a closer look the horns were not yet removed from the rhino.

A search party for the suspects was then conducted by the dedicated field rangers and their effort paid off when they found the two accused hiding not far from where the carcass of the rhinoceros was discovered. The men were found with two bags, one with hunting knives inside meanwhile the other had two rhino horns inside but strangely, the weapon used to kill the rhinoceros could not be traced at the scene. The rangers suspected that there could have been other suspect(s) who evaded the arrest but worked together with the two accused persons that were apprehended.

The carcass of the rhinoceros which was dehorned was later found at a separate place in Satara Section. The police from Skukuza were alerted about the incident and the two were arrested as well as charged accordingly where they appeared before court and were remanded in custody.

The case was then handed over to Stock Theft Unit of the SAPS from Skukuza who made their investigation and, in addition to charges of illegal hunting and trespassing, the team of investigators discovered that the two men were from the country of Mozambique then a charge of contravention of the immigration Act was laid upon the pair. 

In the tour of their probe, police also established through forensic evidence that a 3.75 rifle was used in killing the two rhinos. Charges of illegal possession of firearm with ammunition were therefore added to the two accused persons. They both pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled against them however they were trialled and then convicted in October 2021 hence their sentencing as follows:

On the count of trespassing, the two accused were each sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. On the count of contravention of the Immigration act, the two accused were each sentenced to one year imprisonment. Meanwhile on the count of hunting of rhinoceros, the two were each sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Whilst on the count of possession of unlicenced firearm, the two accused were each sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. Lastly, on the count of possession of unlicenced ammunition, the two accused persons were each sentenced to 1 year imprisonment.

The court ordered that the count of trespassing run concurrently with the count of contravention of the Immigration act. Whilst the count of possession of firearm will run concurrently with that of being in possession of ammunition. The two accused will effectively be incarcerated for effective 19 years.

The Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela further applauded the collaboration that was displayed amongst the team of field rangers, the Investigators, the Prosecution Team as well as the Judiciary which culminated into the impressive sentence.