THE government has given Tsholotsho villagers living in the boundary with Hwange National Park until the end of this month to surrender cyanide used to poison elephants to Chief Siphoso or face arrest.
The decision was made at an interactive meeting in Tsholotsho on Friday between a ministerial task force and villagers over the killing of elephants at the game sanctuary.
The task force led by Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere also has Defence minister Sydney Sekeramai, Kembo Mohadi (Home Affairs), Ignatius Chombo (Local Government), Jonathan Moyo (Information) and Walter Mzembi (Tourism and Hospitality)
One of the community leaders, John Vumile Dube pleaded with the police not to arrest villagers for possession of the deadly cyanide saying they had found ways of convincing them to surrender the poisonous substance.
Dube raised fears that should villagers, continue hoarding cyanide, people would also start dying from the substance.
“I can assure you, we will fix this problem of cyanide. It will come to an end,” Dube told the ministers.
“I am part of a committee led by the Chief (Siphoso) and we been convincing them to bring the cyanide to the chief on the understanding that we would not reveal their names.
“We plead with the police not to arrest them because some will be scared and not co-operate.”
In response, Mohadi after consulting Matabeleland North deputy police commander Assistant Commissioner Musarashana Mabunda gave the villagers up to the end of this month to surrender the poison.
The decision was communicated by Kasukuwere who said: “Those with cyanide – the police are saying surrender it to the chief within this month.
“It does not mean, however, that you continue poisoning the elephants,” he said.
“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.
“We want a buy-in from everyone for the problem of killing of elephants to end.
“The council, parks and the police also need to work together to achieve this goal.”
Kasukuwere said the villagers needed to live harmoniously with wild animals so they could benefit from them.
Chombo, speaking on behalf of the rest of the ministers paid tribute to Kasukuwere for his efforts in raising funds to acquire patrol vehicles to curb poaching activities.