In a recent court case, the Skukuza District Court convicted accused rhino poachers, sentencing them to jail. One of the convicted is Phineas Dinda, a ranger-corporal at Kruger National Park (KNP). His co-accused – Arlindo Manyike and Alfa Gwebane – were sentenced on Tuesday to 16 years in jail.

According to reports, they were found guilty of trespassing in a National Park, conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of an unlicensed firearm, live ammunition and an axe. Manyike was also found guilty of contravening the Immigration Act and trespassing of the National Park.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called for an audit of all employees and rangers at the Kruger National Park (KNP) so that it may be ascertained who may have been charged or convicted of rhino poaching in the past.

DA Member of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee for Environment, Fisheries and Forestry, Annerie Weber MP, called for the audit and stated that the convictions follow an incident in 2019 when two rangers were apprehended for involvement in rhino poaching.

“These ongoing incidents raise the very worrying trend of insiders at KNP assisting criminals to poach rhinos. It also speaks to the lack of effective security on the eastern borders of KNP and the Mozambican border. The DA calls on SANParks and the KNP to strengthen the border control on the eastern side” she said.

After almost a year since the Skukuza District Court was closed, it was reopened on 1 April. The functioning of this court is said to be critical in stopping rhino poachers. Despite Skukuza Court’s successes, in August 2019 it was ordered closed by Naomi Engelbrecht, an administrator of regional and district courts in Mpumalanga province. It was ordered that the court’s roll of approximately 72 cases be transferred to Mhala Regional Court, which is over 80km away. It is unclear why this happened, as it allegedly made for easier poaching.

Annerie Weber MP further stated: “The DA calls on KNP to institute a comprehensive consequence management programme and for a monthly audit of all employees involved in poaching to be undertaken. Information provided to the DA suggests that often suspended rangers or those caught attempting to poach are simply reinstated in their old jobs once internal disciplinary processes have been completed. The recent announcement that polygraph testing will be stepped up is welcomed and it is hoped that this will play a key role in identifying those involved in poaching.”

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