THE opposition MDC-T has claimed that syndicates controlled by top Zanu PF officials are responsible for the by cyanide poisoning of scores of elephants as the ecological disaster becomes a new sparring baton between the rival parties.
Wildlife officials say more than one hundred elephants have been killed at Hwange National Park and blame a poaching syndicate suspected to have poisoned water holes with cyanide and laced blocks of salt with the deadly chemical.
A handful of poachers have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined about US$200,000 each while those accused of supplying the chemical hav also appeared before the courts.
However the MDC-T said Thursday that those arrested were insignificant foot-soldiers working at the beck and call of syndicates controlled by top Zanu PF officials.
Said the party's shadow environment and tourism, Thamsanqa Mahlangu: "The MDC is convinced that the few poachers that have been arrested are junior players while the key players who are well connected in the murky Zanu PF circles are being left to continue with high scale poaching activities.
"Those that have been arrested were paid as little as US$500 by the well linked Zanu PF syndicates to poison the water wells with the cyanide chemicals."
His allegations come after the Zanu PF-leaning state media claimed sanctions imposed by the West nearly a decade ago were responsible for the disaster.
President Robert Mugabe's party claims the MDC-T lobbied for the imposition of the sanctions.
However, an incredulous former education minister, David Coltart, said it was ridiculous for Zanu PF to link the disaster to sanctions which were imposed to punish rights abuses and allegations of electoral fraud.
"I see that Zanu PF now argues that sanctions are responsible for poaching in Hwange! At this rate sanctions are going to be blamed for climate change," he wrote on his blog.
"Instead of buying brand new Mercedes Benzes and luxury Toyota Land Cruisers for ministers had that money been applied to buying Land Rovers for our parks
"Instead of turning a blind eye to rampant corruption in the diamond sector had diamond receipts been applied to national parks then they would have had the wherewithal to run the parks properly."
Mahlangu said, unless addressed swiftly, the disaster could adversely impact the country's fledgling tourism sector," he said.
"The actions of the poachers are developing a serious ecological disaster at one of the country's key tourist attraction.
"As a party, the MDC is worried that the illegal activities at the Hwange national park will not only have an effect on the wild animals but also poses a severe threat on the day to day operations of the entire nation as tourism is one of the country's key income generating sectors."