Three men, Shadrack Matambo (43), Leonard Khumalo (53), and Thabani Sibanda (39) were sentenced by the Kroonstad Magistrates’ Court on 21 September 2023 for theft of protected plants worth over R2 million.
The accused were spotted by a traffic officer at a fuel station along the N1 near Kroonstad on 13 September 2022. She confronted them about transporting suspicious cargo. They, however, managed to escape while she was escorting them to the police station. Suspects abandoned the vehicle they were traveling in along with 50 plants of bread tree cycads. Apparently, they neither had a permit to possess nor transport the plants.
On 21 December 2022, members of Welkom Serious Organised Crime Investigation (SOCI) and Welkom Tactical Response Team (TRT) were led to Gauteng where the first suspect (Matambo) was successfully traced and arrested. A follow-up tracing operation was conducted by Welkom SOCI and Sasolburg TRT on 16 February 2023 after intelligence about the whereabouts of suspects was received. It was during this attempt that Khumalo and Sibanda were cornered in Gauteng.
Zimbabwean Matambo was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for theft and three months for being in South Africa illegally. Khumalo was hammered with a 12 years imprisonment for theft while Sibanda will serve an eight years jail term. In addition, the accused were declared unfit to possess a firearm.
PHOTO: Some of the recovered cycad plants.
Content retrieved from: https://www.saps.gov.za/newsroom/msspeechdetail.php?nid=48548.