Tanzania: Quick Reaction Saves South African Jail Term


Faustine Kapama, Tanzania Daily News

Date Published

A South African national, Rudolf Francesco Van Niekerk (68), yesterday escaped a five years custody sentence after managing to pay a fine of 65m/- for possessing a bracelet made of elephant skin and tail without certificate of registration.

Principal Resident Magistrate Huruma Shaidi, who was hearing the case at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court in Dar es Salaam, convicted Niekerk, a Mechanical Engineer working with Kilombero Sugar Company, on his own plea of guilty.

He took into consideration the seriousness of the offence committed and the mitigation factors advanced by the South African, through his advocate Gerald Nangi, that he is a first offender and has no criminal records both in Tanzania and in his mother country.

The advocate had told the court further that having admitted to the charge, his client regrets to have violated the laws of the country, but was quick to point out that Niekerk had obtained the bracelet outside Tanzania.

He submitted further that his client was in the country to work as a mechanical engineer not only for his gain but also to impact his knowledge and expertise to local citizens and that his expertise was so essential and of paramount importance given the sugar shortage crisis in the country.

In addition, the advocate told the court that his client was a family man having a sick wife in South Africa. He, therefore, requested the court to provide the convict lenient sentence to enable him attend his wife and other family members.

The magistrate, however, pointed out that it has been established that nations were against any form of poaching of animals and that such natural resources were a gift from God which should benefit all the people and not few of them.

He said that even the court should join hands of that war by giving deterrent punishments to offenders in order to make sure that the conservation of natural resources are protected for the enjoyment of the current and next generation.

Earlier, State Attorney Paul Kadushi, for the prosecution, had asked the court to impose a severe sentence to serve as a lesson to the convict and any other person who would be tempted to commit a similar crime. He said that the offence committed was so serious with negative impact to the wildlife.

The prosecution had told the court that the South African committed the offence on June 17, this year at Julius Nyerere International Airport in the city of Dar es Salaam. Niekerk was found possessing the bracelet made of elephant skin and tail valued at 15,000 US dollars (about 32,850,000/-).