By Tereasa Ferrari
Mandla Chauke (39) didn’t kill Samson Msimango himself, he was charged under the common purpose doctrine, which implicates that he should have foreseen the possibility that Msimango or any other person might have been killed under those circumstances
MBOMBELA – The state procured a huge victory in court on Tuesday when a rhino poacher was not only convicted of the murder of his accomplice, but sentenced to 77 years imprisonment.
Although Mandla Chauke (39) didn’t kill Samson Msimango himself, he was charged under the common purpose doctrine, which implicates that he should have foreseen the possibility that Msimango or any other person might have been killed under those circumstances.
Three years of hard work and perseverance by state prosecutor Adv Isabet Erwee and investigating officer WO Willie Broodryk finally paid off and they were ecstatic about the outcome of the case.
The poaching incident in 2011
Rangers had testified that they had come across three men in the Stolsnek area of the Kruger National Park (KNP) on April 23 and could hear that they were arguing about not having enough ammunition.
The rangers followed the perpetrators to where they could hear the dying breaths of a rhino cow and her calf nearby. They knew that the men had run out of ammunition and were waiting for the animals to die. The body of a bull was later found nearby with its horn hacked off.
The rangers sprang into action and a gunfight ensued. Msimango dropped his empty rifle and went for his handgun, when a ranger fired shots and he was killed. Chauke took a shot to the shoulder but ran away. He was caught about 200 metres from the scene, with a rhino horn in a rucksack on his back.
The third suspect, only known as Mnaka, managed to evade capture.
The state’s argument
In her closing arguments, Erwee referred to various cases where the common purpose doctrine had been used in cases where armed robberies had occurred. Erwee mentioned an incident where a civilian was killed by police when they were involved in a shoot-out with armed robbers. The robbers were convicted of the murder of the civilian.
“They knew that committing the crime could result in a dangerous situation which could lead to the death of others, just like Chauke knew that the KNP is heavily guarded by rangers, soldiers and police, therefore he is accountable.”
Ruling by magistrate Ms Sheila Msibi
She rejected Chauke’s version that he had been forced to participate in the poaching. “You knew the deceased and the other perpetrator prior to this. Poaching is an activity that needs proper planning and cooperation.”
She stated that the deceased would not have forced someone into such a dangerous activity as why would he risk his own life with someone not willing to assist him. “The court does not believe your version that you were coerced. You acted together with the others as it was planned.”
She said the three of them carried out an illegal activity, knowing full well the environment was heavily guarded by rangers and soldiers. They were able to gain entry into this environment, putting themselves at great danger and reconciled themselves to the consequences of their act. “Therefore I find you guilty.”
SANParks welcomes the heavy sentence
Acting CEO of SANParks, Mr Abe Sibiya, commended the courts, in particular Msibi, for imposing such a lengthy jail term. “This is a huge triumph for the rhino and we warmly welcome this sentencing as it will provide the much-needed boost to the anti-poaching teams who endure harsh conditions for the protection of our parks.”
The KNP has lost 370 animals to poaching since January this year and 62 people were arrested in connection with some of the cases.
“Our wish is to see a significant increase in such convictions and for the law-enforcement authorities in affected countries to cooperate and work with us to end this scourge,” concluded Sibiya. Photos.