Hike sentence

Serial rhinoceros poachers finally imprisoned, but the sentence is stinging…

Considered serial rhino poachers and repeat offenders with ties to the criminal underworld of “Mafia boere rhinoceros hornsGideon (53) and Niklaas van Deventer (56) were sentenced on Wednesday by Giyani Magistrate’s Court to 44 and 54 years in prison, respectively.

However, as the sentences appear to have been compiled as concurrent, they will only serve 10 and 15 years each. and could be eligible for parole after only half that time.

Prosecutor Norman Makuvele expressed disappointment with the sentences, saying they were too lenient given the many offenses the brothers were convicted of, the severity of the offenses and their previous convictions for rhino poaching and illegal weapons.

“As a prosecutor who worked on the case, I am unhappy with the sentences as the defendants were convicted of multiple offenses of rhino poaching and trafficking and possession of rhino horn – in all 13 counts of Each count carries a 15-year sentence under LEMA 7 of 2003, and in addition, the defendants were convicted in 2007 in Bloemfontein of killing more than 10 rhinos and sentenced with many of clemency,” Makuvele said in a written statement to Daily maverick.

The rhino horn that was thrown out the bakkie window as it was chased at high speed by members of the SAPS Endangered Species Unit in 2017. (Picture: Supplied)

According to Makuvele, SANParks lead investigator Mario Scholtz testified in the increased sentence.

“He gave perfect evidence. He talked about syndicates hunting rhinos and the smuggling of rhino horns. He talked about the fact that the defendants are in fact hunters and traders. He spoke of statistics on rhino population depletion due to poaching, which has damaged breeding rates. He talked about the economic impact of poaching on private game reserves, and he talked about the impact of poaching on the tourism industry.

“The court said it also took into account that the defendants had already spent five years in detention waiting for their case to be finalized as they were arrested on 06/01/2017 until today, on the day of sentencing,” Makuvele said.

And while the court did not rule on when the two would be eligible for parole, Makuvele said the procedure at Corrections meant Gideon would be eligible after serving five years, while Niklaas would be eligible after a little more than seven years.

The sentencing follows a series of delays over the years, during which the brothers changed legal representation and finally changed their guilty pleas earlier in 2022.

“What is shocking is that, given that these are repeat offenders, the court clearly did not give enough weight to this aspect,” said a well-respected environmental lawyer who asked not to not be named.

“Penalties should have a deterrent effect, and in this case, that does not appear to be the case. Consequently, the interest of society and the seriousness of these offenses do not seem to have been sufficiently taken into account.

The two brothers have served sentences to Kroonstad Prison for killing two rhinos at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal in 2006.

They were caught in the act by police and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife officials minutes after shooting the animals. They found four rhino horns, three illegal firearms and ammunition, knives and gloves used to remove the horns, two-way radios and various documents.

In 2007, Gideon and Niklaas were sentenced in a Free State court to 10 and 5 years, respectively, for poaching and illegal trade in rhino horn. Part of their sentence was suspended.

In 2010, Gideon, who ultimately served five years of an eight-year sentence, backtrack on a plea bargain deal testify against a major syndicate of rhino horn traffickers, claiming to have been intimidated and threatened with death. The syndicate included well-known professional South African hunters and outfitters.

The scene of the poachers’ arrest in 2017. (Photo: Supplied)

In this case, a few days after the discovery of three poached carcasses around New Year 2017, Gideon, Niklaas and a Zimbabwean accomplice, Onward Muchagowa (39), were arrested near Louis Trichardt by members of the threatened species of Limpopo following a denunciation. that they had tried to sell rhino horns in the Makhado region.

A bag containing a plastic-wrapped horn was reportedly thrown out of their bakkie window during a high-speed, multi-vehicle chase and then recovered by police.

Both Gideon and Niklaas testified during their bail applications that the rhinoceros horn did not belong to them but to a person named Ruben. They claimed they intended to contact the police to pass on information about Ruben so that they could be registered as police informants.

In 2017, Magistrate Bennie Smit denied them bail, saying he had considered their previous convictions and was of the view that it was likely the brothers would commit other schedule offenses. 1 if released on bail.

According to an investigator who worked on the case, “the evidence against the defendant was overwhelming”.

Magistrate Victor Mudau on Wednesday convicted the brothers of conspiracy to commit rhino poaching, slaughtered a cow and her calf on a farm in Witpoort, shot and dehorned a rhino in Polokwane Game Reserve in December 2016, hunting of a protected species (rhinoceros), illegal possession and sale of rhinoceros horn, possession of firearms and ammunition without a permit, and illegal entry into land with a firearm where wild animals have been found.

Both defendants were found unfit to possess a firearm.

The trial of co-defendant Muchagowa will be held separately later this month. He did not plead guilty. DM/OBP