THE government’s decision to order Tsholotsho villagers to surrender cyanide used to kill elephants in Hwange to Chief Siphoso has raised eyebrows following sensational revelations that the tradition leader is a convicted poacher.
A ministerial taskforce comprising Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere and also included Sydney Sekeramayi (Defence), Kembo Mohadi (Home Affairs), Ignatius Chombo (Local Government), Jonathan Moyo (Information) and Walter Mzembi (Tourism and Hospitality) last week gave an ultimatum to Tsholotsho villagers to hand over the cyanide to the chief by month-end or face arrest.
This followed an admission that almost all households in villages bordering the Hwange National Park had stocks of cyanide they used to kill problem animals with.
The Cabinet taskforce was set up after at least 100 elephants were killed at the game sanctuary and several people from around Tsholotsho were arrested for being behind the scandal. The command to surrender the cyanide to Chief Siphoso was communicated by Kasukuwere during a meeting with villagers at the beginning of this month.
“Those with cyanide — the police are saying surrender it to the chief within this month,” the minister said then.
“The committee led by Chief Siphoso should make efforts to inform the community of this so they surrender the poison. If you are found after the end of the month in possession of the poison, then the police will deal with you.”
But according to court records, the chief was tried and convicted of contravening Section 82 (1) of the Parks and Wildlife Management Act Chapter 20:14 and fined $200 or two months in prison for illegally dealing in ivory in 2009. Chief Siphoso, who was born Alphius Msindazi, gave his address as 7141/5 Pumula North, Bulawayo, and pleaded guilty to the charge.
He was nabbed by the police after being on the run for months when three other men arrested for possession of ivory implicated the chief in the scandal.
The ivory was forfeited to the State.
In sentencing Chief Siphoso, Bulawayo provincial magistrate Phathekile Msipa said what aggravated the chief’s case was that he is a traditional leader who should lead by example.
“What you did is against the dictates of your role as a chief as your actions bring into disrepute the name of chiefs throughout the country.
“You gave a bad example to the people you lead given the fact that you are expected to preside over cases that are brought before you,” Msipa said in the ruling.
Ten poachers were arrested in September in what anti-poaching advocates said was the largest single killing of elephants in Zimbabwe’s history.
Three of the poachers have already been convicted and given jail terms of 15 and 16 years as well as mega fines.
Efforts to get a comment from Kasukuwere yesterday were fruitless.
Meanwhile, a police boss and three of his subordinates who allegedly received a $10 000 bribe from poachers suspected to have poisoned elephants at the Hwange National Park will continue languishing in remand prison after they were denied bail yesterday.
The bribe money was for the release of a Toyota Hilux, which police had intercepted in Harare carrying a consignment of ivory.
Bulawayo magistrate Gladmore Mushove yesterday denied the four, detective assistant inspector alois Gakata, detective sergeant Wellington Jena, detective constables Shadreck Rore and Ronald Dube bail arguing that they were a flight risk considering the magnitude of the case.
They were all remanded in custody to October 14.
The detectives were implicated by Clever Khumalo (44) and Sipho Mafu (54) who 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.
Khumalo and Mafu are jointly charged with Sanelisiwe Dube of 15099 Nkulumane 12, still at large.
They were allegedly selling the ivory in Harare and South Africa.