Lowvelder (South Africa)

Court rules would-be poachers guilty of murder

Paul Ubisi and Paul Julio Nvhimbithi.

SKUKUZA – Every docket tells a story. In the case against Mozambicans Paul Ubisi and Paul Julio Nvhimbithi, the story had a bloody, violent plot with conspiracy to poach and the death of an accomplice.

While seeking to poach rhino in December 2015, the two men and their accomplice were involved in a shoot-out with SANParks rangers. In a sworn statement, one ranger recalled what happened.

The ranger and his colleague were patrolling the N’wanetsi area of the Kruger National Park on December 13 that year. The two spotted someone with a red shirt hiding in shrubbery.

“(He) had a rifle against his shoulder (and was) taking aim at us,” read the ranger’s statement.
Police would later confirm that the weapon was a loaded .458 rifle.

“I heard gunfire in front of me from my colleague and I also fired,” he added. Suddenly two more suspects appeared and ran in different directions.

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The suspect in red identified himself as Wilson Julius Ubisi from Massingir. He would later be identified as Paul Ubisi. In his possession were three backpacks and an axe.

While facing Ubisi, the ranger heard another man groaning. About 30 metres from Ubisi, he found a man who called himself Amerku Zitha, also from Massingir. Zitha would later be identified as Paul Julio Nvhimbithi.

The ranger recalled seeing a third suspect. He asked Nvhimbithi where he was. The latter pointed towards a trail of blood. After following it for 250 metres, the rangers came across a wounded man. He identified himself as Nelson Mathebula, also from Massingir.

A doctor from Skukuza was helicoptered to the scene. Yet he would not be able to save Mathebula. Because the police’s forensic pathologists had not yet made it through the bush to the scene, the rangers and policemen carried his body to the road, from where pathologists took over.

Senior state advocate, Isabet Erwee charged Ubisi and Nvhimbithi with illegal immigration, trespassing in the KNP, conspiring to hunt illegally and the murder of Mathebula. Erwee argued that Ubisi and Nvhimbithi should have foreseen the possibility of a person getting killed during the poaching.

By continuing with it, they intentionally caused their accomplice’s death.

On September 12, the magistrate, Dr Andries Lamprecht, found them guilty accordingly. Ubisi was also found guilty of illegally possessing a firearm and ten rounds of ammunition.

On Thursday, Lamprecht sentenced Ubisi and Nvhimbithi to 20 and 18 years’ imprisonment respectively.

Helene Eloff
Court Reporter