Court firm on 25 years jail for wildlife poacher (Tanzania)


Faustine Kapama, The Daily News

Date Published

The Court of Appeal has confirmed the 25 years imprisonment custodian sentence or 792m/- fine imposed on a wildlife poacher, Saganda Kasanzu, for unlawful possession and trade in four elephant tusks, which are government trophies.

A panel led by Chief Justice Ibrahim Juma and Justices Gerald Ndika and Mary Levira ruled against Kasanzu, the appellant, after dismissing his appeal in its entirety he had lodged to challenge the decision of the High Court on the matter. “We are settled that the case against the appellant was proved beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore, we confirm the decision of the High Court. Consequently, the appeal stands dismissed in its entirety,” the justices declared in their judgment delivered in Dodoma City recently.

During hearing the appeal, the appellant had complained, among others, that the case against him was not proved beyond reasonable doubt. 

This complaint was vehemently opposed by State Attorney Salim Msemo, for prosecution, who argued that, the prosecution proved both counts against the appellant. Mr Msemo had contended, therefore, that the High Court rightly upheld the appellant’s conviction and sentence.

In their judgment, the justices explained to have gone through the record thoroughly and could not find any justifiable reason of interfering with concurrent findings of the courts below. Another ground of complaint was with the effect that the prosecution failed to tender any document to prove that he voluntarily confessed before one of prosecution witnesses to have committed the charged offences. 

Referring to Section 3(1) of the Evidence Act, the justices pointed out that confession may be oral, written or by conduct. They noted that the appellant failed to shake credibility on oral account that he voluntarily confessed that he was arrested with elephant tusks, the subject of this appeal. Another complaint relating to appellant’s confession was associated with his cautioned statement which he contended that was recorded out of time. 

The justices agreed with both parties that the appellant’s statement was recorded out of four hours prescribed by the law after he was put in restraint. They were, however, quick to point out that the circumstances surrounding the matter justified the delay in recording the statement. The justices noted that the appellant was first taken to village office for finalisation of the seizure of elephant tusks he was found with and later to the police.

“We are satisfied that the delay which we consider not to be inordinate was justified, more so, after considering the investigation processes and nature of subject matter involved. In this regard, we agree that the appellant’s cautioned statement was recorded in accordance with the law,” they said.

There was also a complaint relating to the chain of custody of four seized elephant tusks. According to the appellant, such chain was actually broken. The justices revisited the evidence from the testimony of Wildlife Warden, Central Zone, Manyoni Singida, who was the exhibit keeper.

The Wildlife Warden stated that on January 16, 2017, he received four elephant tusks from a police officer who was accompanied with the appellant, registered and labeled the said exhibit. Thereafter, he gave the tusks to one of prosecution witnesses for valuation and also labeled the said exhibits. Thereafter, the said tusks were returned to the Wildlife Warden for safe custody and later were tendered at the trial. The justices noted that during trial, several prosecution witnesses identified the said exhibit by stating the appearance, the label and the case number. “We do not agree with the appellant that the chain of custody of those exhibits was broken because we find sufficient evidence on record connecting the dots from when the appellant was arrested with the said elephant tusks, their storage until when they were tendered and admitted in evidence,” they ruled. Before the trial Court, the prosecution alleged that on January 16, 2017 at Karangasi Village, within Uyui District in Tabora Region, the appellant and his co-accused were found in unlawful possession and dealing in four pieces of elephant tusks weighing six kilogrammes valued at USD 30,000 (66m/-). The prosecution told the court that the accused possessed such elephant tusks, the property of the government of the United Republic of Tanzania without dealer’s licence.

The appellant was tried before the District Court of Manyoni and upon conviction he was sentenced accordingly. It is on record that, having received the information from the whistle blower that there were people selling elephant tusks, two Wildlife Wardens managed to set a trap on January 16, 2017.

They went to Kalangasi village after having communicated with the appellant, who was a seller, through the phone. The appellant carried the polythene bag containing four elephant tusks with an intention to sell them to the Wildlife Wardens. The appellant and his fellow untied the bag and started to negotiate the price. While in the course of doing so, the appellant was arrested.