South African National Parks (SANParks) has today, 18 May 2021 welcomed the culmination of two long-running rhino poaching trials by the Skukuza Regional Court. One rhino poacher was sentenced on 14 May whilst three – including a former SANParks employee – were sentenced on 17 May.

The Managing Executive of the Kruger National Park, Gareth Coleman said “We hope this will send a message to others that justice will ultimately be served. It is particularly concerning that one of our own employees has been arrested and imprisoned.”

Phineas Dinda was a SANParks full corporal in the Rangers Corps when he was arrested in Tshokwane Section in May 2019, along with two others – South African citizen Alfa Gwebana and Mozambique citizen Arlindo Manyike.

Coleman said in a statement today: “We are aware of the involvement of employees in colluding with poachers. We call on all employees who have information pertaining to this collusion to come forward or use the Ethics and Fraud Hotline.”

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

They were each sentenced to an effective sixteen years in prison.

Meanwhile another poaching suspect, Nito Mathebula, was arrested in Tshokwane Section in January 2019 while hunting in the Park illegally. Two of his accomplices unfortunately managed to evade arrest.

He was found guilty of trespassing in a National Park, breaking the Immigration Act and for the killing of a rhino. He was earlier this month sentenced to an effective 13 years in custody after being found guilty on three poaching-related charges.

Increase in convictions with re-opening of Skukuza Court

Skukuza Regional Court resumed hearing cases on 1 April after attempts were made to close it down.

“With the opening of the Skukuza Court again we are seeing a significant increase in convictions,” said Coleman. “We expect this trend to increase and poachers may find short term benefit from poaching but they will be apprehended impacting on their own, their families and community livelihoods.”

Coleman said: “We would like to congratulate the prosecution, SAPS (South African Police Service) and our hard-working dedicated Rangers Corps who arrested the suspects and presented credible evidence that led to the sentences imposed by the courts.”