Mashudu Netsianda and Temba Dube Senior Reporters
THE Government has set up a ministerial taskforce comprising ministers of Environment, Water and Climate, Cde Saviour Kasukuwere, Tourism and Hospitality, Cde Walter Mzembi and Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Professor Jonathan Moyo, to investigate rampant poaching of elephants at Hwange National Park.
The three ministers on Sunday visited the national park to assess the situation during which they had an aerial view of some of the carcasses of the elephants, which were killed by poachers that are reportedly using poison.
In an interview yesterday, Cde Kasukuwere said the Government was extremely concerned about the killing of elephants and general poaching of game at the country’s national parks. He said this had prompted the Government to set up the taskforce to investigate and get to the bottom of the problem.
“The Government is really concerned about the poaching activities, particularly the elephants which are being killed by poisoning at Hwange National Park. It is actually the responsibility of Government to protect our wildlife and we are therefore making a strong statement that we have intensified the fight against poaching. We actually went to Hwange National Park and saw the carcasses of the poisoned elephants at various sites and it is really bad,” said Cde Kasukuwere.
He said investigating teams comprising game rangers from the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and police have since been deployed to the national park to conduct 24-hour patrols.
“We have put teams at the national park and surrounding areas and they are conducting investigations and patrols,” said Cde Kasukuwere.
He said they have also roped in the communities living in areas adjacent to the national park in the fight against poaching.
“We want to ensure that communities living in areas near the national park complement our efforts in fighting poaching. We actually want them to have a shared responsibility as well as a sense of ownership of their natural resources so that we are able to preserve our wildlife which we must bequeath to future generations,” he said.
Cde Kasukuwere said efforts were being made to flush out the poisonous substances by burying contaminated carcasses to prevent predators such as lions and vultures from feeding on the remains.
“We have also tightened our efforts to flush out poisonous substances and our teams are going around the sites digging holes so that they are able to dispose of the bones to prevent other animals from feeding on contaminated carcasses,” he said.
According to police, 69 carcasses of elephants have so far been recovered at Hwange National Park while nine suspects have been arrested since the start of the ongoing anti-poaching exercise.
Meanwhile, three of the six suspects who were recently arrested for allegedly poisoning and killing 41 elephants with cyanide at the Hwange National Park, have been freed after being exonerated of the offence. The three, Mr Tinashe Semwayo (23) of Number 2 Hoffmeyer Square, Mr Nqobizitha Tshuma (25) of 14 Taylor Avenue both of North End suburb and Mr Alexander Ngwenya of Tshabalala were freed when the other three suspects said they were not involved in the poaching “deal.”
Mr Semwayo and Mr Tshuma visited Chronicle newsroom yesterday and narrated their story.
“We are unhappy about the negative publicity we got when the story came out. As a kombi crew, we were hired by Farai Chitsa who said he needed us to take his relatives to Harare, from Tsholotsho, for a funeral,” said Mr Semwayo who owns the vehicle that was hired.
He said Chitsa called him at about 8pm on 30 August and he called his friend, Mr Tshuma and also his driver, Mr Ngwenya to accompany him.
“We went to Tsholotsho with Chitsa, who grew up in North End. But when we got to Pelandaba Village the kombi got stuck in the sand. Chitsa got off saying he was going to collect his relatives as we were near where the relatives were. We were therefore surprised when two vehicles filled with armed park rangers arrived and arrested us at 2am,” said Mr Semwayo.
The trio did not appear in court as they were released after Chitsa and other suspects, told the police that the trio knew nothing about the elephant poaching activities.