Mpumalanga Provincial Commisioner welcomes sentence handed down to two rhino poachers

NELSPRUIT - The Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela has welcomed the sentence that was handed down to two rhino poachers. The two men were sentenced by the Skukuza Regional Court on 19 April 2022.

The court sentenced Lawrence Flaveo Cuetsele (21) and Nelson Mhlongo (34) after their arrest in connection with rhino poaching related activities and possession of firearms with ammunition at the Kruger National Park. It is said that on 05 March 2021 the two accused men entered the park through Tsokwane and Lower Sabi Sections. It is said that the field rangers heard some gunshots whereby other rangers were activated and with the assistance of SANParks helicopter, three male suspects were cornered. The trio were found in possession of a rifle (.458 Win Mag CZ 580 Magnum bolt action) which was fitted with a silencer, 07 cartridges, one magazine case and a knife. They were also found with some bags and clothing.

The police at Skukuza were informed about their capture and upon arrival, the suspects were arrested as well as charged accordingly. The investigation also revealed that Cuetsele and Mhlongo were Mozambican Nationals who came to South Africa illegally hence a charge of contravention of the Immigration Act was added upon the two. The three suspects appeared before court where one of the suspects, Antony Tembe was granted bail but that was the last time he was seen and he never sat his foot in court again however a warrant for his arrest was issued. He is still sought by the police.

The case was then probed by the Stock Theft Unit of the SAPS at Skukuza who made their investigation and presented the evidence before court against the two men. They were convicted hence their sentencing as follows:

On the count of trespassing, the two accused were each sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. On the count of contravention of the Immigration Act, the two accused were each sentenced to one year imprisonment. Meanwhile on the count of possession of prohibited firearm, the two accused were each sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. On the count of possession of unlicensed ammunition, the two accused persons were each sentenced to 2 years imprisonment. Lastly, on the count of possession of a dangerous weapon, the two were both sentenced to one year imprisonment. The court ordered that the sentence on the count of contravention of the Immigration Act will run concurrently with the sentence on trespassing. Meanwhile the sentence on possession of unlicensed ammunition will run concurrently with the sentence on possession of prohibited firearm. The two accused will effectively be incarcerated for effective 19 years. Further than that, both accused were declared unfit to possess a firearm.

The Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela further appreciated the manner in which all stakeholders collaborated their efforts which resulted in the imposed sentence. “We are delighted with the cooperation that was displayed amongst the team of field rangers, the Investigators, the Prosecution Team as well as the Judiciary which culminated into the impressive sentence” said the General.

Source: South African Police Service