The Herald (Harare)

28 September 2013

Zimbabwe: Poachers Syndicate Operated for Five Years, Court Told

Photo: Kevin Walsh
Elephants in the evening, Hwange, Zimbabwe.

The poaching syndicate that has been killing elephants by cyanide poisoning in the Hwange National Park has been operating for the past five years.

This was revealed by two members of the alleged syndicate when they appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Ms Gladmore Mushove on Thursday.

Clever Khumalo (44) and Sipho Mafu (54) are being charged with delivering, or offering toxic substances and also illegally possessing ivory in contravention of the Parks and Wildlife Act and the Environmental Management Act.

The two are jointly charged with Sanelisiwe Dube of 15099 Nkulumane 12 who is still at large. They were allegedly selling the ivory in

Harare and South Africa. In their warned and cautioned statements, Khumalo of 59864/2 Iminyela Flats and Mafu, of Pelandaba Village in Tsholotsho, said they committed the offence in the company of Mthandazo Tshuma, who is on the run and several other people from Bulawayo and Harare.

Khumalo said Mafu supplied him with 25kg of ivory in 2008 which he sold to a Mr Mutemwa in Harare for US$1 000. He said in 2010 he got 54kg of ivory from Tshuma of Binga and used it to make bangles which he sold in Cape Town, South Africa for US$13 000.

Khumalo said Mafu supplied him with 130kg of ivory in 2011, which he smuggled to South Africa using a cross border commuter omnibus operator commonly known as umalayitsha but alleged that he lost the consignment to robbers.

He said last year he was introduced to a person identified as Mr Albert Buzizi, a former teacher at Mpopoma High School, who supplied them with 50kg of cyanide, which they used to poison the jumbos.

Khumalo said he took the cyanide to Mafu's homestead in Tsholotsho and in August last year, Mafu supplied him with 240kg of ivory after poisoning some elephants. Some of the members of the syndicate, according to Khumalo, were a woman identified as Mrs Anna Moyo of Number 16734 Millas Road, Romney Park, Mr Daniel Mba who knew the buyer in Harare, Tshuma, a woman identified as Mai Rumbi from Harare, another woman identified as Anna Mvereche and his wife Ms Elfina Mzizi.

He said last year in August they used Mrs Moyo's vehicle after she allegedly lied to her husband that she wanted a car to visit her ill sister in Kwekwe and the husband gave her a Toyota Hilux to use, not knowing that she had been hired to carry the ivory.

According to Khumalo and Mafu's statements, the syndicate was intercepted by police in Harare and fled, leaving the vehicle, which was then impounded. They said some policemen led by an officer only identified as Gankata demanded US$10 000 bribe to release the vehicle after tracing it back to Mrs Moyo's husband in Bulawayo.

The syndicate allegedly gave the police US$3 000 and three officers from Harare allegedly came to Bulawayo after seven days to collect the balance of US$7 000.

Khumalo and Ncube said a man identified as Gumbo was facilitating the transactions and when they accompanied the police officers back to Harare, they stopped in Norton when the officers phoned Gankata and they drove to his house with the money.

While in Harare, Khumalo and Mafu alleged that they slept at Cranborne Police Station at a cottage belonging to a policeman identified as Musoma.

Mafu told the police that after receiving the cyanide, he would either apply it on the soil where elephants spent time or in buckets full of water which he would submerge in the ground for jumbos to drink.

Mr Buzizi, whose statement was also recorded by the police, said he used to work at NFS Chemicals, a company which supplied different kinds of chemicals.

He said they would sell the cyanide only to people personally known to the company executives because they had no EMA certificate of storage and sale.

Mr Buzizi said he sold a drum of sodium cyanide to Dube because they were long time friends and she later gave it to Khumalo who then supplied it to Mafu. He said Dube told him that they had a gold mine claim and wanted to use the cyanide at the mine. Khumalo and Mafu will next appear in court on 8 October and they are remanded in custody. Mafu also has another case of hunting without authority and violating EMA Act, in which he is jointly charged with his brother, Misheck and Farai Chitsa, and they will next appear in court on 4 October.

At least 87 elephants were killed by poisoning at Hwange National Park, Africa's third largest wildlife sanctuary after Serengeti in Tanzania and Kruger in South Africa .

Three of the poachers Robert Maposa (42), Thabani Zondo (24) and Dedani Tshuma (25) were on Wednesday sentenced to 16 years in prison each for illegal possession of ivory and contravening Section 73 (1) of EMA Act.

Maposa and Zondo were further ordered to pay US$600 000 restitution to the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority by 31 December 2013 while Tshuma was further asked to pay US$200 000 by the same date.

Miss Concilia Ncube is prosecuting.

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InFocus

Zimbabwe's San Blamed for Elephants Poisoning

Elephants in the evening, Hwange, Zimbabwe.

The death toll of poisoned elephants now stands at over 100 with authorities blaming the san people for poaching. Read more »