A 37-year-old man was sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment at the Free State High Court on Thursday, 13 February following his arrest on multiple charges, including rhino poaching.
Judge Philip Loubser sentenced Jimmy Mashopane for the crimes he committed between July and December 2018.
He was arrested on 22 January 2019 after he allegedly killed nine rhinos and stole 14 rhino horns at the Sandveld Nature Reserve.
Mashopane travelled from Wintervelt, Gauteng, to commit these crimes, according to the evidence heard by the court.
Before his arrest, field rangers discovered nine carcasses between 29 July 2018 and 15 December 2018, resulting in them intensifying their patrols.
The police received information about two poachers entering the Sandveld Nature Reserve and followed their tracks until 800 metres outside the reserve where Mashopane was arrested after he was found near a tree and tried to escape.
Data found on Mashopane’s phone placed him in the proximity of the reserve when the crimes were committed.
State prosecutor advocate Antoinette Ferreira argued in court that the crimes were planned due to the trips Mashopane made from Wintervelt to kill the rhinos and take their horns.
“The accused travelled from Winterveld to Hoopstad just to kill the rhinos and take their horns. His criminal activities were motivated by greed. A sentence of direct imprisonment is the only option as it will deter other poachers from committing these crimes,” said Ferreira.
Judge Loubser took one count of rhino poaching, cruelty to animals and money laundering together for purpose of sentencing and handed down a sentence of a six-year jail term.
He further took the other nine counts of rhino poaching, five counts of theft, two counts of possession of ammunition, one count of possession of firearm and possession of a prohibited firearm and sentenced Mashopane to 18 years, making his sentence an effective 24 years in prison.