Outrage as poachers walk

13 July 2015 - 09:38 By SIMON BLOCH

Political interference is being alleged after three rhino poachers who were involved in a shootout with police and anti-poaching rangers walked out of the Ingwavuma Magistrate's Court without having to spend time in jail. The DA has called on the Hawks to investigate the "leniency" of the sentences.DA police spokesman Dianne Kohler Barnard said she was outraged and called for an investigation into rhino trial courts in KwaZulu-Natal after multiple allegations of interference and undue influence being exerted."[This] speaks of very high-powered political interference to me, but obviously it needs to be investigated by the Hawks," Kohler Barnard said."We cannot as a country claim to be taking rhino poaching seriously. [A fine of] R2000 a month for someone who could be pulling in hundreds of thousands of rands from selling rhino horn to criminal syndicates, is not a deterrent."Central to the case is Madoda Gumede, 35, brother of a prominent Zululand traditional leader and son of a former Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife board member, the late Simon Gumede.Gumede is leader of the Mduku community, which runs the Makhassa reserve next to Phinda.Madoda Gumede, and his two co-accused, brothers Jabulani, 39, and Sigidi Ndabadaba, 36, from Nbela, were arrested in May 2013 for rhino poaching in the Phinda Private Game Reserve after a shootout with police and the Nyathi anti-poaching unit. An unidentified poacher was fatally wounded.At their bail application the men were each released on R300 bail each.They were charged with conspiracy to hunt rhino, and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.The men testified against each other in court.Madoda and the Ndabadabas were convicted of conspiracy to hunt rhino illegally and fined R60000, which they are allowed to pay in instalments of R2000 a month. They will serve seven years in jail on default of payment.The magistrate wholly suspended for five years Madoda's six-year sentence for illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.Evidence had been led that it was Madoda Gumede who had supplied the large-calibre CZ .375 hunting rifle, silencer and ammunition.David Mabunda, acting CEO of Ezemvelo, said: "We are delighted to see that rhino arrests are resulting in increased conviction rates but we would have preferred to see harsher sentences at Ingwavuma, bearing in mind the sentence handed down in Mtubatuba Magistrate's Court only three days earlier."In that case, Cimona Ngovela, a Mozambican, was charged for trespassing and illegal possession of a weapon. Sentenced to an effective five years in jail, Ngovela was given one year for trespassing, and four on the weapons charge...

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