Zimbabwean Rhino poaching gang jailed

A gang of notorious foreign nationals that is linked to poaching Rhinos in the country has been sentenced to 16 and 20 years behind bars.

The six Zimbabwean nationals were found guilty by the High Court of South Africa, Eastern Cape Division, sitting in Makhanda on Tuesday. 

Francis Chitiyo, Trymore Chauke, Meshack Chauke, Simba Masinge, Nhamo Muyambo and Abraham Moyane’s sentences range between 20 and 16 years, for conspiracy to commit theft of rhino horn and unlawful possession of firearm and ammunition.

Five of the men, except for Meshack Chauke, made the much-publicised daring escape from Makhanda Correctional Facility in October 2022, after their conviction.

After their escape, 13 rhinos were poached during the first three months of 2023.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Chitiyo was sentenced to an effective 20-year jail term, Muyambo to 19 years, Moyane to 18 years, Trymore Chauke and Masinge to 17 years each, and Meshack Chauke to 16 years.

NPA spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said out of the six convicts, only two of them were in the country legally.

“In July 2018, all the men stayed near each other, with some sharing accommodation in East London.

“At some point before their arrest, they conspired to jointly commit rhino poaching, to steal rhino horn and sell same into the lucrative illicit trade in the product,” said Tyali.

They further obtained an unlicensed 375 caliber hunting rifle, which was fitted with a silencer to suppress the gunshots, to avoid detection during their illegal hunt.

“The six traveled in two vehicles towards the Makhanda area, where there are numerous game reserves housing populations of rhinos.

“Before they reached their destination, one of the vehicles suffered a mechanical breakdown.

“They were stopped by members of the rhino poaching task team of the police, patrolling the N2 highway, while towing the other vehicle. Inside the vehicles, two axes, knives, and cellphones were discovered,” Tyali added.

While the gang was in custody, no rhino poaching incidents were reported in the Eastern Cape.

Delivering the sentence, the court said even though they were not convicted of the actual killing of a rhino or the theft of a rhino horns, it is noted that it was more than a coincidence that when the gang was in custody there were no poaching incidents in the Eastern Cape.


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