The Skukuza Regional Court convicted and sentenced Sylvester Zitha (40) to 17 years’ imprisonment for poaching-related offences on November 15.
According to the Monica Nyuswa, provincial spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, Zitha was convicted of trespassing, possession of an axe, a firearm with a silencer, and ammunition, the killing of a rhino, and conspiracy to commit an offence.
“On October 19, the rangers found a dead rhino and followed tracks. They found Zitha and Ricardo Phiri in the Tshokwane Section of the Kruger National Park, in possession of a hunting rifle and two fresh rhino horns. Both were subsequently arrested; Phiri was granted bail and absconded,” Nyuswa said.
She said Zitha pleaded not guilty in court. However, state prosecutor Lot Mgiba led evidence of two field rangers who had apprehended the accused. The evidence of the police officers who handled the crime scene was also led. “It proved that the accused are the ones who killed a rhino. The court found the evidence of the state witnesses credible, and the accused was found guilty as charged,” said Nyuswa.
Ike Phaala, SANParks’ spokesperson, said they welcomed the conviction and believed that it would send a strong message to those who are considering to poach rhinos for their horns.