TWO Zambian men were sentenced to three years in jail each for possession of a leopard skin, while a pensioner was fined N$30 000 for the illegal possession of a duiker last week.
In the first incident, the two Zambian men, Tobolo Luwaile (30), and Sindiiwe Manyando (36), were each sentenced to three years' imprisonment in the Katima Mulilo Magistrate's Court last Thursday.
Luwaile and Manyando were arrested on 8 March 2018 in the Chantuhu area in the Katima Mulilo district after a tip-off to the police that they were in possession of a leopard skin without a permit. They also faced an alternative charge of dealing in protected wildlife products.
The two accused pleaded guilty to the charges, and told the court that they planned to sell the leopard skin for N$5 000 only. Magistrate Clara Mwilima remarked during the sentencing that there have been numerous campaigns against the poaching of wildlife, and a lot of resources had been spent in fighting these crimes.
"However, due to the prevalence of these offences, the government could not turn a blind eye. Almost every day, there are reports of poaching in conservancies or national parks. This is a sign that offenders are not deterred, and it also appears that there is a business hub for wildlife products. The court has responded to the call to save these endangered and specially protected animals by ensuring sentences imposed will curb the offence," she said. Mwilima further ordered that the leopard skin be forfeited to the state, and the duo be declared prohibited immigrants in terms of Section 2 (A) of the Immigration Control Act 9 of 2008. Diana Khama represented the state in the matter. Meanwhile, a 60-year-old pensioner, Lawerence Mukena, was arrested for illegal possession of a duiker and was sentenced to two years imprisonment, or a fine of N$30 000 in the Katima Mulilo Magistrate's Court last week Thursday.
Mukena was arrested on 13 March 2019 in the Bukalo area for being in possession of a duiker without a permit, and was also charged with hunting protected game. The estimated value of the duiker is N$3 400. Mukena is still in custody as he has not paid the fine yet.
Magistrate Clara Mwilima said in her sentencing remarks that the court has to respond to the call to save these endangered and specially protected species by ensuring that sentences imposed were deterrent enough.
"The offence is serious, and is evident from the penalty clause. In the past, the penalty clauses were considered outdated and too lenient. The legislature answered the call to amend the legislation and ensure that the penalty clauses prescribed address the seriousness and the prevalence of the crimes involving the illegal hunting of these animals, be it protected or specially protected.
"The punishment should send a clear message that offenders will accordingly be punished. Stiffer sentences will be imposed on those convicted of such offences in the hope that it will address the offence and protect these species, which are close to extinction," she warned.
Mwillima said Mukena had hunted protected game without a permit, and that such conduct deserves punishment that will not only deter him as an offender, but also deter other potential offenders.
Diana Khama represented the state in the matter.