Zomba Chief Resident Magistrate Court has convicted and sentenced a 35 year-old man to eight years in jail with hard labour for dealing in buying and selling of rhino horns without licence.
Eastern Region Police Public Relations Officer Inspector Joseph Sauka said the convict Given Vwi Haiya was arrested after police got information that he was selling rhino horns.
Prosecution Officer Dickens Mwambazi told Zomba Chief Resident Magistrate court that the convict during the month of February this year at Ntaja area in Machinga district dealt in buying and selling of rhino horns without licence which is contrary to section 91(1) as read with section 110 of National Park and Wildlife Act.
Mwambazi said Haiya offered for sell rhino horns to a certain businessman from Mangochi and he even sent photos of fresh rhino horns to the potential customer.
According to Mwambazi, the rhino whose horns were being offered for sell is said to have been poached from Liwonde National Park in the same district of Machinga and is valued at 55,000 US dollars which is equivalent to K41, 250, 000, according to United Nation Global Environmental Crime.
After reading particulars of the offence, the accused pleaded not guilty to the charge and this made the Police to parade six witnesses including National Park officials.
Following the evidence tendered by the state, the court found Haiya guilty.
In his submission before sentencing, Mwambazi asked the court to consider giving the convict a stiffer sentence since he benefitted from the sales of the horns as nothing was recovered.
Mwambazi added that Malawi had rhinos at Liwonde National Park but due to people like Haiya, all the species were depleted until the Republic of South Africa donated 17 rhinos to the park. He however said that the donated rhinos have decreased to nine due to poaching.
“According to International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Malawi black rhino is listed as a critically endangered species hence the need for protection. I am therefore asking the court to give the convict a stiffer sentence if we are to protect our black rhinos,” said Mwambazi.
In mitigation, the convict asked for leniency when passing sentence as he is a first offender.
Passing sentence, Chief Resident Magistrate Agnes Patemba concurred with the state that the convict deserved a stiffer sentence considering the seriousness of the offence which attracts a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.
Patemba said had it been that there were no people like the accused, poaching could have not been a problem in the country because there could have been no markets.
She said to show how serious the government is on wildlife, section 110 is under review and its maximum sentence will be raised to 30 years imprisonment. She then sentenced Haiya to eight years imprisonment with hard labour.
Given Vwi Haiya comes from Ntaja village, in the area of Senior Chief Kawinga in Machinga district.