Elizabeth Tsuro Midlands Reporter
TWO police officers from Gokwe have each been sentenced to 10 years in prison after they were found in possession of a pangolin. The duo, part of a four member gang which includes two villagers, were caught while trying to sell the animal to a detective who posed as a potential buyer in the cotton farming town.
Constables Tinashe Mushaikwa, 29, based at ZRP Gokwe Central and Albert Gwere, 23, based at ZRP Nembudziya Post appeared before Gokwe Magistrate, Collen Chiruma, facing one count of possessing a specially protected animal without a permit.
They pleaded not guilty.
However, their accomplices, Gordon Chitima, 49, of Nemanga Village under Chief Chireya, Gokwe and James Matsungo, 42, from Chiweshe readily pleaded guilty to the charge last month.
The villagers were each sentenced to nine years in prison. Sentencing the police officers, Chiruma said the duo had wasted the court’s time by denying the charge.
“You’ve been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment each of which 6 months are suspended on condition you don’t commit a similar offence in the next five years and four months suspended on condition of good behaviour. Effectively you’ll serve nine years in prison.”
Prosecuting, Michael Mhene, said sometime in October this year on a date unknown to the prosecutor, the quartet, connived and hunted a pangolin in Chemagora Forest, Gokwe.
Mhene said the two police officers and the two civilians agreed that Chitima and Matsungo should keep the pangolin. Mushaikwa and Gwere were tasked with looking for a buyer in Gokwe town.
“On October 25 police got a tipoff that the four were selling a live pangolin.
“Police officers from the Minerals and Border Control Unit together with members of Parks and Wildlife Authority Management and the Zimbabwe National Army made a follow up,” he said. Mhene said a detective posed as a pangolin buyer and communicated with Gwere who told him to meet him at Sunset Business Centre in Gokwe.
He said the detective went to Sunset Business Centre where he met the two police officers who then led him to Chitima’s homestead in Chemagora about 40km from Gokwe Town. “The quartet failed to produce a permit for keeping a specially protected animal leading to their arrest,” said Mhene.