By Rizwana Sheik Umar
In what is being hailed as a groundbreaking verdict in the fight against rhino poaching, a hunter has been convicted of the murder of an accomplice who was shot dead by a game ranger.
Wawito Mawala must have foreseen the possibility of the death when he and three others conspired to hunt rhino at Ndumo Game Reserve in November 2011, said Ingwavuma Regional Court magistrate, MA Khumalo.
Mawala was convicted on Tuesday and was scheduled for sentencing on Thursday.
The magistrate said that Mawala, of Mozambique, had not advanced reasons during his trial why he should not be held accountable for the murder of Erasmo Mazivele.
Mazivele and his companions were spotted in the Maputaland reserve on November 19, 2011, by two game rangers who were pursuing a white rhino.
One of the rangers, Cyprian Innocent Gumede, ordered Mazivele – who was carrying a bolt-action rifle – to lower his weapon, but the hunter turned and pointed it in the direction of Gumede.
The rangers, realising they were in danger, fired shots at Mazivele and his companions, fatally wounding him.
The shots caused the others to flee, but Mawala was found the next morning by patrolling rangers. More....