A 42-year-old man was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on three counts of Restricted Activities Involving Specially Protected Species, Protected Species, and Indigenous Species in terms of the Northern Cape Nature Conservation Act 9 of 2009.
Stanford Hatidani was convicted on all three counts brought against him in the Kuruman Regional Court in the Northern Cape.
The provincial spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Mojalefa Senokoatsane said the incident took place on June 14, 2022.
The State’s first witness, an ambulance driver told the court out of concern he stopped at a bakkie and truck standing next to the N14 highway between Kuruman and Kathu.
Upon checking whether everything was okay, the ambulance driver became suspicious when he saw plants being loaded from the bakkie to the truck and alerted the Kuruman neighbourhood watch and the South African Police Service (SAPS).
The court heard as both vehicles entered Kuruman, they were pulled over by the SAPS and Kuruman neighbourhood watch.
On investigation, a total of 2,850 endangered and protected plants were found which included five different species with a combined international value of R9 million.
The truck driver, Hatidani tried to downplay the situation by claiming to only be assisting the people of the broken down bakkie in transporting the plants to Johannesburg.
He was subsequently arrested.
Hatidani pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him, disputing the truck he was driving was carrying illegal plants.
State Prosecutor Advocate Sherlaine Smith, emphasised the impact of these offences on nature conservation and the communities where these plants are poached.
She further argued that these offences are of such a serious nature that the legislature deemed it necessary to have a specific Act relating to such offences – The Northern Cape Nature Conservation Act 9 of 2009.
She further called an expert witness, Botanist and Zoologist, Adam Harrower to testify who indicated Hatidani was very specific about the species he was targeting and by the large size and great age of the plants he was to sell them for immediate commercial gain.
“The astounding quantity of large trophy plants collected indicated no restraint or ecological sensitivity, which shows a complete disregard for nature and the law,” Senokoatsane said.
“When looking at the evidence before the court, the people and vehicles involved and the planning, show the sophisticated manner in which the poachers operate and the only inference that can be drawn, is that syndicates are involved in the commission of these offences, and these plants were to be taken out of the country once they have reached Johannesburg,” Senokoatsane continued.
“The main objective of poachers of these protected plants is for them to reach the international market where it is seen as status symbols.”
Smith told the court there is a high prevalence of poaching of these plants in the Northern Cape and are increasing in numbers at a shockingly high rate.
Hatidani was sentenced to 10 years of direct imprisonment.
“The NPA lauds the work of the prosecution as well as the vigilant conduct of the ambulance driver, whose observant nature, and prompt actions led to the arrest of the accused,” Senokoatsane said.
“The Prosecuting Authority also commends the rapid response by members of the South African Police Service in ensuring that the suspect is apprehended. The NPA remains committed to the fight against the poaching and plundering of our country's natural resources and the protection of our flora and fauna.”