Illegal weapons have landed a number of South Africans behind bars on poaching-related charges this week. Most recently, two suspected poachers were apprehended en route to the Kruger National Park (KNP) on Wednesday morning in Mpumalanga, Lowvelder reports.
Nicole Mbungela, 38, and Phyllis Busi Thabethe, 40, were arrested on the R40 between Mbombela and Barberton.
They were charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm and illegal ammunition as well as conspiracy to poach. Police believe the illegal firearm found in their possession was smuggled through Swaziland’s Oshoek Border Post.
Police acted on information from the provincial tracking team and the crime intelligence unit about a white Nissan NP200 bakkie travelling on the road, they stopped the vehicle fitting the description at about 9am. The hunting rifle was hidden underneath the vehicle. A silencer and illegal ammunition as well as a knife and “poaching equipment” were found in the back of the bakkie.
During interrogation, the suspects initially refused to say where they were heading.
Provincial spokesperson Sergeant Gerald Sedibe later confirmed that they admitted to being on their way to the KNP.
On Monday, Pieter Jansen van Rensburg, his wife, a family member and a guide from Massinger were arrested inside the protected buffer zone of Mozambique’s Parque Nacional de Limpopo (PNL). Carlos Pereira, the Mozambican director of protection and law enforcement, confirmed to Lowvelder that a docket was opened against Jansen van Rensburg for illegal hunting in a protected area.
Massinger is a hotspot from where many of the Mozambican rhino and elephant poachers hail. The arrest came shortly after a collared elephant named Charlie was killed in a section of the park that has experienced an increase in ivory poaching.
Charlie’s was one of four elephant carcasses found in the section of the park in the past two weeks.
The group was arrested in this particular section. Pereira indicated that they had obtained information that the group were regular visitors. “We confiscated the illegal weapons and ammunition they had with them,” said Pereira. “They attempted to hunt in a national park, which is illegal, and we detained them on those two charges.”
He confirmed that Jansen van Rensburg was a resident from Manhica and allegedly an employee on a sugarcane plantation. “He refused to show his identity documents to us and to sign a document confirming the seizure of his weapons,” Pereira said.
He added that ballistics tests would determine if the group’s unlicensed weapons matched the bullets removed from the carcasses. All four were released on bail pending trial.
Mbungela and Thabethe appeared in the Nelspruit Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, and the outcome is not yet known.
Wildlife poaching only became illegal in Mozambique in 2014. Bossies Community Justice’s Albert Gryvenstein said Swaziland’s tough stance on poaching and legislation was known to deter poachers and should be an example to South Africa.
The Game Act, as it is known, says anyone who poaches or attempts to poach one of the specially protected species (white or black rhino, elephant or lion), will go to jail. There is a minimum of five years’ imprisonment, which could be increased to 15 years, and no option of paying a fine. Apart from this, the offender is also expected to pay back the prescribed value of the animal poached to the owner.
– Caxton News Service