HIGH COURT OF ZIMBABWE
BULAWAYO 12 APRIL 2018
MATHONSI J: This matter was placed before me for automatic review in terms of section 57 (1) of the Magistrates Court Act [Chapter 7:10] following the conviction and sentence of the two accused persons to an effective 15 years imprisonment by the magistrates court sitting at Binga on 29 January 2018. The two had pleaded guilty to one count of contravening section 82 (1) of the Parks and Wildlife (General) Regulations, 1990 as read with section 128 of the Parks and Wildlife Act [Chapter 20:14] as amended by section 5 of the General Laws Amendment Act No 11 of 2011.
When the court found no special circumstances as would entitle it to refrain from the imposition of the mandatory minimum sentence of 9 years imprisonment, it sentenced each accused person to 20 years imprisonment of which 5 years imprisonment was suspended on condition of future good behaviour leaving them with an effective 15 years imprisonment. In arriving at what was clearly a very harsh sentence the trial magistrate made the interesting observation:
“The two accused persons had three pairs of horns (ivory) meaning three elephants were killed. They had an intention of selling meaning they were or they wanted to make a living out of trading in ivory.”
I was unable to appreciate what may have informed the imposition of a sentence which was more than double the mandatory minimum sentence provided for in the penal section and desired to know from the trial magistrate how that eventuated. By letter of 21 March 2018 the trial magistrate makes the concession that she erred: