As the festive season commences, rhino activists celebrated a small victory with law enforcement officials in the Limpopo Province.
On Monday, the 19-year-old Musa Simango pleaded guilty to charges relating to rhino poaching and was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment by the Louis Trichardt Regional Court.
Simango was caught red-handed in the Punda Maria area of the Kruger National Park (KNP) on Monday, 28 October. He and two other suspects were spotted by rangers and pursued by helicopters. Simango was eventually caught and arrested. His partners in crime managed to elude arrest.
The police and rangers, however, did not back down, and kept on searching for the two escapees. While chasing the remaining two suspects down, there was a gunfight between the suspects and the rangers.
One suspect, Derrick Maluleke (34), was fatally wounded, while the remaining suspect slipped through the rangers' fingers. According to the police’s provincial spokesperson, Col Ronel Otto, the police found three live bullets in Simango’s pockets. After the shooting incident, the police also confiscated a firearm.
Simango pleaded guilty to single counts of illegal activities in a protected area (hunt of a rhino), the illegal possession of ammunition and trespassing. He was, respectively, sentenced to eight years imprisonment on the first charge, three years for the second charge and one year for the charge of trespassing. Simango’s last two sentences will be served concurrently with his conviction on the first charge, meaning that he effectively received a direct sentence of eight years' imprisonment.
Following the court’s verdict, provincial police commissioner Lt Gen Fannie Masemola applauded the magistrate, as well as Lt Willie Taute of the Musina Stock Theft Unit, for opposing bail and securing the conviction. “The more hefty sentences the court gives to rhino poachers, the better for our vulnerable rhinos,” Masemola said.