A Zimbabwean who was arrested in Masvingo two years ago after he was found with a fresh rhino horn, was last Friday sentenced to 10 years in prison after committing a similar offence in South Africa.
By Our Senior Court Reporter
Rogers Mukwena (40) a former teacher in Beitbridge, who skipped bail in 2010 and fled to South Africa, was sentenced at the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court.
Media reports in the neighbouring country said Mukwena was a key figure of a notorious poaching gang popularly referred to as the “Musina Mafia”.
He was arrested in January this year in northern Pretoria, hundreds of kilometres from his home in the village of Mpande in southern Zimbabwe.
Police discovered three horns in Mukwena’s possession.
DNA tests later linked them to a poaching incident in which a white rhino cow and a calf had been brutally killed.
Testifying in aggravation of sentence, the police investigating officer Captain Charmaine Swart told the court: “We feel like we are fighting a losing battle for our natural heritage because of the way rhinos are being slaughtered.
“At this rate, by 2015, growth rate of (rhino population) won’t be sustainable. More rhinos will be killed than born.”
The reports said in 2005, Mukwena was arrested in Mpande along with several other men.
Two .303 hunting rifles — which had serial numbers removed — were found, along with zebra and lion skins and pangolin scales.
There were also bags of skinning salt and brine bins used to prepare the skins.
Despite the evidence, the case never went to trial.
There were suspicions that a policeman, a prosecutor or even a magistrate had been paid off to throw the case out.
Mukwena was arrested in 2010 by police in Masvingo together with six others for suspected poaching.
A .303 rifle fitted with a silencer and telescopic lance with 42 live rounds of ammunition was recovered.
He however skipped bail and went to South Africa the same year.