Najwa Dirk’s son, Sulaiman Effendi, and his co-accused who were arrested for smokkeling a lion cub, have been sentenced after pleading guilty.
The duo were charged under the Endangered Species Act, and according to the Weekend Argus, Effendi and Shurud Jacobs were handed fines of R20 000 or 12 months in the mang.
This after they entered into a plea and sentencing agreement with the State at the Khayelitsha Priority Crimes Court in July, while the charges against a third accused, Rayaan Simons, were withdrawn.
However, animal rights and welfare organisations were left angered by the punishment the duo received because they said the four-month-old leeutjie had paid with its life.
According to official court documents where Jacobs entered into a plea and sentence agreement, he stated he had bought the cub via an advertisement for the purpose of a Lion King-themed birthday party and that he had given the animal to Effendi to look after.
“He admits that he took possession of the Lion cub on August 19, 2019. He admits that he knew that a lion cub is a protected wild animal. He admits that he knew that he needed a permit. He admits that the person from which he acquired the lion cub did not have a permit.”
Equally Effendi makes the same admissions that he was asked to keep the animal for his friend: “The accused admits that on 19 August 2019 he was requested by a friend to keep a wild animal, a lion cub, at his residence till August 21, 2019 in captivity. He admits that he took possession of the Lion cub on August 19, 2019.”
Spokesperson of the National Prosecuting Authority, Eric Ntabazalila, said investigations revealed the cub had been legally bred in captivity and sold.
“The lions were legally bred in captivity and sold, (but) transported and possessed in Cape Town without a permit. It was not a cub that was captured in the wild and sold.”
The case made headlines in 2019 after the police’s Stock and Endangered Species Unit found the lion cub at Effendi’s home in Lawrence Road, Athlone.
The police were responding to a tip-off and during court proceedings, it was revealed that the investigating officer travelled to Thabazimbi, Limpopo, where they compared the DNA of the lion cub.
The cub had been transported from Thabazimbi and found in Athlone on August 21, 2019, and was bought for R50 000.
The accused gave their own game away when a photograph of the cub being held by Effendi, mimicking a scene out of The Lion King movie, went viral on social media.
A video also circulated showing the cub walking in a garage around vehicles.
Soon after the cub’s rescue, CapeNature confirmed they were forced to euthanise it because it would not be able to adapt to the wild.
The case was originally heard at the Wynberg Magistrates’ Court and later transferred to the Khayelitsha Priority Crime Court.
Allan Perrins of the Animal Welfare Society of South Africa (AWS) said the sentence was a joke: “The sentence is hopelessly inadequate as a deterrent. I would go as far as saying that it is laughable, especially given the tragic fate of the lion cub who paid with its life for human indiscretion.
“These pathetic sentences make a mockery of our conservation legislation that is meant to protect our natural heritage.
“Lion cubs should never be compared to kittens. They are dangerous wild animals and cannot be domesticated.
“Keeping a lion as a pet is a bit like playing Russian Roulette.”