SANParks welcomed heavy sentences handed down to three more rhino poachers in the Skukuza Regional Court last week.
The Kruger National Park’s (KNP) managing executive, Gareth Coleman, said Isaac Zitha (41), Oscar Ndlovu (38) and Richard Mkhombo (39), all South African citizens, were found guilty on various charges related to rhino poaching.
“The three were convicted of the first incident, which took place in the Stolznek Section of the KNP in 2017. Some rangers had followed the sounds of gunshots near where they were patrolling. Ndlovu was found hiding in the area and was promptly arrested. The rangers called in their K9 colleague, who led them to a backpack, and the two others, Isaac and Given Zitha. The backpack contained a pair of rhino horns and rifle, which were linked to a carcase found nearby. The accused were granted bail. Given Zitha absconded and is still being sought by the police to face trial,” said Coleman.
In 2018, rangers found human tracks in the Kingfisherspruit section of the KNP, which led them to the boundary of the Manyeleti Game Reserve where Ndlovu was arrested. The K9 unit was again called in and led the team to Isaac Zitha and Mkhombo, with a backpack containing a pair of rhino horns and a rifle, linking the three to a another carcase found nearby.
Coleman said the sentence was further evidence that collaborative work on criminal matters among different units bears fruits, and sends a strong message to criminals. “The members of the SAPS, the prosecution and the Rangers Corp have been diligent in handling these cases and presented foolproof evidence to the courts. The prosecution also made a compelling argument on our behalf for harsh sentences. We are delighted by the outcomes and hope the remaining suspect will be apprehended and face trial,” Coleman said in a statement.
Richard Mkhombo, Isaac Zitha and Oscar Ndlovu were sentenced for the 2017 incident. On the first count of trespassing, they were each sentenced to three years, while on the charge of possession of an illegal firearm with serial number filed off, six years was added. The illegal possession of ammunition landed them with another two years behind bars. The last two charges on which they were found guilty, killing an endangered species and the possession of an axe, led to a further 11 years in jail. Isaac Zitha and Oscar Ndlovu were sentenced to 44 years for the 2018 incident in Kingfisherspruit.
All Three Accused: Richard Mkhombo, Isaac Zitha and Oscar Ndlovu were sentenced as follows for the 2017 incident:
Count 1. Trespass All 3 Accused sentenced to 3 years
Count 2. Possession of illegal firearm with serial number filed off – 6 Years
Count 3. Illegal Possession of Ammunition – 2 years
Count 4. Killing of an endangered species – 10 Years
Count 5. Possession of an Axe – 1 year
Some of the sentences to run concurrently.
Two Accused: Isaac Zitha and Oscar Ndlovu were sentenced as follows for the 2018 incident:
2018 Kingfisherspruit case
Count 6. Trespass – 6 years
Count 7 – Possession of firearm – 6 years
Count 8 – Possession of firearm to commit a crime – 5 years
Count 9. Possession of firearm with serial numbers filed off – 5 years
Count 10. Possession of ammunition – 2 years
Count 11. Killing of an endangered species (rhino) – 10 years
Count 12. Killing of rhino – 10 years