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Els v The State

22 September 2017

Supreme Court of Appeal 

Citation: Els v The State (1241/2016) [2017] ZASCA 117 (22 September 2017)

Date: 22 September 2017

In this matter, the accused was found guilty of offences in terms of the Limpopo Environmental Management Act, 2003 (LEMA) related to the purchasing, possession and conveying of 30 rhinoceros (rhino) horns without a valid permit, the receiving of four rhino horns without a valid permit and the conveyance of eight rhino horns (being his property) without a valid permit. The Regional Court sentenced the accused to 10 years’ imprisonment of which two years was suspended for five years on condition that the appellant is not convicted of contravening s 41(1)(a) of LEMA.

The Supreme Court of Appeal found that the Regional Court had misdirected itself with regard to the sentencing and reduced the sentence to four years’ imprisonment. It held that even though the Regional Court misdirected itself with regard to the sentence, a custodial sentence was still called for:

“Threat to the wildlife in South Africa has dramatically increased in recent years, and so has the illegal trade in rhino horns. As a result, this species is under a serious threat of being slaughtered or otherwise exploited, for economic gain. Sentences which reflect our censure will go a long way to safeguard the rhino from being economically exploited. Regrettably a non-custodial sentence would send out the wrong message.” 

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Section 24of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

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