Two men jailed over elephant poaching and ivory possession

Kasungu Senior Resident Magistrate court on Monday 30 September, sentenced Nickson Nthukwa, 45, and Assani Phiri, 48, to 156 and 72 months Imprisonment with Hard Labour (IHL), respectively, for illegal elephant poaching and possession of two pieces of ivory without a permit.

Director of Malawi Police Prosecutions, Nepier Chafikana, told the court that on 18 July 18 2019, Nthukwa was offering officers from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) elephant meat for sale at Chulu trading centre in the district.

He said the DNPW officers then asked Nthukwa if he also had ivory for sale and the convict agreed that he did have the tusks and revealed that they were with his friend Phiri. Nthukwa then led the officers to Phiri’s residence where the latter produced two tusks weighing 17 kilograms, worth K70 million.

The court further heard that DNPW officers arrested the two and reported the matter to Kasungu Police Station who immediately began further investigations within the area. The two convicts then led DNPW and police officers deep into Kasungu National Park in order to show them the place where they killed the elephant.

Chafikana said further investigations also revealed the possession of an axe, firearm, and ammunition which were used to kill the wild animal and these tools were being kept at Nthukwa’s residence.

Nthukwa was charged with five counts of entering a protected area without a permit, carrying a weapon into a protected area, killing a wild animal in a protected area, illegal possession of a specimen of a listed species contrary to section 86 (1) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act, and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition contrary to section 12 (1) of the Firearms Act.

Phiri was charged with the same counts apart from the charge of illegal possession of firearm and ammunition. The two pleaded guilty to all the charges.

In Mitigation, both convicts asked for leniency on the basis that they are bread winners for their families. Phiri also asked the court to be lenient on the basis that he is a first offender.

The state, however, requested for a stiff penalty of not less than 20 years’ IHL for Nthukwa and not less than 15 years IHL for Phiri in order to deter would-be offenders.

Chafikana said that the two convicts properly planned for the illegal act. He said poaching has led to many elephants in the park being killed and this is negatively affecting tourism thereby dwindling the country’s socio-economic development.

Presiding Senior Resident Magistrate, Montfort Misunje sentenced Nthukwa to 40 months on the first and second counts, 80 months on the third and fourth counts, and 36 months on the fifth count.

Misunje gave Phiri 16 months on the first and second counts, and 56 months on the third and fourth counts. The sentences are to run concurrently from the date of arrest.

Misunje said he passed such sentences because the convicts pleaded guilty to the charges and that they showed remorse. He said Phiri’s sentence was on the lower side because the degree of his participation in the commission of the crime was less than Nthukwa’s.

The court further ordered the DNPW to keep the two pieces of ivory and the Malawi Police to keep the firearm, ammunition, and axe.

Nthukwa and Phiri hail from Kanthungulu and Chilowa villages, respectively, in the area of Traditional Authority Chulu in the district.

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