Leonard Ncube Victoria Falls Reporter
EIGHT villagers from Hwange and Tsholotsho districts have been arrested for allegedly being behind the recent killing of elephants in the Hwange National Park using cyanide. Parks and Wildlife Management authority officials found about 70 jumbos dead. Police arrested the villagers after catching them with unprocessed ivory, a firearm and 6kgs of cyanide.
The eight, who are suspected to be part of a poaching syndicate, were arrested in separate incidents by a security team comprising officers from the Border Control Unit and Parks and Wildlife.
Forget Shoko of Chief Shana area in Hwange, Stephen Moyo of Dete, Gift Ndlovu, Makwikwi Mujeje, James Nkomo, also from Dete, Phathisa Moyo, Thandazani Sibindi and Ngangezwe Khumalo all from Tsholotsho, were charged with numerous crimes in some cases individually and jointly.
The crimes range from illegal possession of cyanide, illegal possession of firearm, illegal possession of unprocessed ivory and possessing mbanje. They appeared before Hwange magistrate Lindiwe Maphosa yesterday.
Shoko pleaded guilty to possessing raw ivory after police recovered a pair of elephant tusks weighing 26kg and valued at $6,500 hidden under a bed. Maphosa sentenced him to 10 years in jail for the crime.
Shoko told the court that he got the ivory when he, Moyo, Nkomo and Mujeje poisoned elephants using cyanide in Sinamatela area within the Hwange National Park where 23 jumbos were found dead last month.
Moyo was jailed for three months for possessing cyanide, a further two months for illegal possession of 111 twists of mbanje and two more months for illegal possession of a firearm. Mujeje was fined $200 or three months in jail in default for possessing a firearm.
Ndlovu, in whose car the firearm was recovered, had charges against him withdrawn after Mujeje exonerated him. Sibindi, Phathisa and Khumalo will be back in court on December 8 after the magistrate deferred the case so the State could investigate further.
Particulars of the case are that on September 9, Ndlovu was driving a taxi from Hwange to Bulawayo with Mujeje on board. The two were stopped by police at a roadblock in Lupane and a 375 rifle was recovered hidden in the boot, the court was told. The two implicated Moyo and Nkomo who were arrested in Dete on Saturday.
Police found nine rounds of ammunition and 111 twists of mbanje in a hole at Moyo’s homestead. On the same day, they led police to a bush where a packet of cyanide weighing 1 kg was recovered. Shoko was arrested on the same day in Lubangwe in Matetsi leading to the recovery of ivory.
Phathisa, Sibindi and Khumalo were also arrested and three tusks weighing 12kg and 5kg of cyanide were recovered. Prosecuting, Onias Nyathi said police acted on a tip off.