Six poachers in Hwange were recently sentenced to nine years in prison each by Matebeleland North Provincial Magistrate, Livard Philemon for illegally possession of ivory worth US$9 250.
Austin Sibanda, (54), of Dete, Morris Munkombwe, (39), of Hwange, Shingai Sithole, (33), of Dete, Kemesi Shoko, (39), of Hwange, Tariro Mateyaunga, (26), of Hwange, and Phenias Ncube, (39) of Hwange, who were represented by Thulani Nkala pleaded not guilty to the charge but were convicted after a full trial.
Vumizulu Mangena for the State told the court that on November 24 last year at 2pm, Detective Inspector Rusinga received information that the six were in possession of ivory at Dete and intended to sell it.
Detective Rusinga and a reaction team went to the area pretending to be trophy dealers. On their way they picked Munkombwe, Shoko, Mateyaunga and Ncube. They arrived at Cross Dete at around 10pm where arrangements were made to pick up the ivory and bring it to the rendezvous. Detective Constable Mandina and his colleagues intercepted the vehicle that was bringing the ivory to the drop off point and demanded to search it.
They found two pieces of ivory which weighed 37kg and were valued at US$9 250.
Cases of poaching continue to be a cause of concern despite the efforts made by the responsible authorities to curb the menace with locals blaming it on the economic situation in the country.
This has made the challenges of conserving the country’s wildlife tougher as poaching for meat has become a matter of survival for many local people while the poaching for animal products such as skins, rhino horn and elephant tusks, has become prolific as corrupt business persons in some cases offer the poachers the equivalent of a year’s wages for one rhino horn or a piece of ivory.
Meanwhile, the government says it will provide an initial capital injection of equivalent to US$11.9 million to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) to strengthen its operations, particularly its anti-poaching activities.
The authority is mandated with protecting and managing Zimbabwe’s wildlife population. Although it has taken huge strides in restricting animal poaching, the parks authority is not adequately equipped, materially and in manpower, to eradicate poaching in the country.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the financial support was in pursuit of a turnaround strategy for the parks authority.
“(Cabinet resolved) that an initial investment equivalent to US$11.9 million be injected towards the acquisition of modern anti-poaching equipment, support equipment, operational vehicles, support for national parks management activities and maintenance of infrastructure,” she said.
She said the reforms would also aim to address issues of poor corporate governance, operational inefficiencies and sub-optimal utilisation of resources under Zimparks.
“Cabinet accordingly resolved that the commercial division of Zimparks be hived off to a special purpose vehicle in order to unlock value in the commercial assets currently owned by Zimparks through joint venture arrangements with private sector partners.”
Zimparks, she said, would also pursue a debt restructuring to allow it more time to pay off obligations owed to various service providers. The parks authority’s debt currently stands at RTGS$21.5 million.
“Necessary legislative review (should also) be undertaken so as to inter-alia strengthen the management and operations of Zimparks as well as to ensure the balance between the need to guarantee wildlife protection and to provide for other competing land uses,” she said.