Walter Mswazie Masvingo Correspondent
A POACHER was yesterday sentenced to 35 years in jail for killing two rhinos at Sango Valley Conservancy in Chiredzi.
Masvingo provincial magistrate Langton Ndokera slapped Tawengwa Machona, 39, of Chegutu with the lengthy jail term yesterday and suspended 15 years on condition that he pays $480,000, the value of the rhinos, to the conservancy within five years.
His alleged accomplices Munashe Mudenge Mugwira, an assistant intelligence officer and Jason Chisango are being charged separately while two others Dumisani Moyo and Chris Kamboyi, a Zambian national, are on the run.
The team of poachers was allegedly led by Mugwira and the gang met at a hideout in Norton where the ringleader would use his official vehicle to transport them to the conservancy near the border with Mozambique.
Delivering sentence in Machona’s case, the magistrate said the poacher deserved a deterrent sentence given the gravity of the offence and the potential revenue that the country was deprived of.
“You deserve the deterrent sentence so that you can be a reformed person when you come out of prison. You’ve deprived the nation of thousands of dollars in potential hunting quotas and tourism,” said Ndokera.
Prosecutor Tavonga Musina had urged the court not to be lenient with poachers like Machona.
He said stern measures were required to curb poaching in the country.
“The accused’s actions were premeditated given the number of times he committed the offence. The crime was well planned therefore the court should slap the accused with the sternest and deterrent sentence,” said Musina.
He told the court that on February 10 last year, Machona connived with Chisango, Mugwira, Kamboyi and Moyo to illegally hunt and kill protected animals.
The court heard that the team proceeded to Sango Valley Conservancy armed with an AK47 rifle.
“Upon arrival they hunted and illegally killed a protected animal named a black rhino, dehorned it before fleeing,” said Musina.
The court further heard that using the same method this year, the gang killed another rhino at the same conservancy, de-horned it and disappeared.