Skukuza Regional Court shows no mercy to three poachers

Kruger National Park (KNP) Chief Executive Gareth Coleman said Isaac Zitha (41), Oscar Ndlovu (38) and Richard Mkhombo (39), all South African citizens, have been convicted of various charges related to rhino poaching.

“The three were found guilty of the first incident, which took place in the Stolznek section of the KNP in 2017. Some rangers had followed the sounds of gunfire near where they were patrolling. Ndlovu was found hiding in the area and was quickly arrested. The rangers called their fellow K9, who led them to a backpack, and the other two, Isaac and Given Zitha. The backpack contained a pair of rhino horns and a rifle, which were tied to a carcass found nearby. The defendants were released on bail. Given Zitha fled and is still wanted by police for trial,” Coleman said.

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In 2018, rangers found human tracks in the Kingfisherspruit section of KNP, which led them to the edge of Manyeleti Game Reserve where Ndlovu was arrested. The K9 unit was called again 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 another carcass found nearby.

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Coleman said the sentence was further proof that working collaboratively on criminal cases between different units pays off and sends a strong message to criminals. “Members of SAPS, the prosecution and Rangers Corp have been diligent in handling these cases and presented infallible evidence to the courts. The prosecution also made a compelling case on our behalf for harsh sentences. We are delighted with the results and hope that the remaining suspect will be apprehended and tried,” Coleman said in a statement.

Richard Mkhombo, Isaac Zitha and Oscar Ndlovu were convicted over 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 a registered serial number, six years have been added. Illegal possession of ammunition earned them another two years behind bars. The last two charges they were convicted of, murder of an endangered species and possession of an axe, led to an additional 11 years in prison.

Isaac Zitha and Oscar Ndlovu were sentenced to 44 years for the 2018 incident at Kingfisherspruit.

Some of these sentences must be carried out simultaneously.

Elna M. Lemons