National Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega has welcomed the heavy sentence imposed by the Nelspruit Regional Court on a convicted rhino poacher after he was sentenced to 77 years behind bars yesterday.
General Phiyega thanked the Skukuza Detective Services for their sterling work that led to the successful conviction and sentencing of Mandla Chauke who was charged with a count of murder, three counts of illegal hunting of rhino, theft of horns, illegal possession of firearms, illegal possession of ammunition as well as trespassing into a national park.
He pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The court heard during the trial that Chauke and two accomplices entered the Kruger National Park illegally on 23 April 2011, armed with an unlicensed 9mm pistol as well as a hunting rifle, where they shot three rhino, killing the adult bull and badly wounding the cow and an almost adult calf in the process.
Their actions on the day and gunshots attracted the attention of the on-duty rangers who were on patrol.
Upon coming face to face with the rangers, a gunfight ensued whereby one suspect disappeared into the park and was never apprehended while the other one, identified as Samson Elias Msimango was shot dead and Chauke arrested.
Among the items recovered from the Chauke were rhino horn, as well as firearms and ammunition.
He was sentenced to 15 years for murder, 10 years for each of the three counts of illegally hunting rhino, 8 years for the theft of rhino horn, 15 years for illegally possessing firearms, 7 years for the illegal possession of ammunition as well as 2 years on the trespassing conviction.
General Phiyega has warned poachers that the South African Police Service will leave no stone unturned in the fight against rhino poachers and poaching and praised the
investigating team from Skukuza for continuing to ensure that poachers are brought to book and convicted.