HomeEditorial CommentVillagers innocent until proven guilty

Villagers innocent until proven guilty

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THE allegations that Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) rangers are terrorising villagers in a bid to extract information about cyanide used to kill elephants at the Hwange National Park must be strongly condemned.

One of the victims, Lot Zondo of Phelandaba in Tsholotsho, reportedly suffered a heat stroke after he was forced to sit in front of a brazier in the scorching sun.

The rangers accused Zondo of having a role in the poisoning of elephants at the giant game reserve.

He was reportedly admitted at Tsholotsho Hospital for sometime and his health is said to be deteriorating as a result of the torture.

Other villagers arrested for alleged poaching following reports of the massive scandal that started surfacing in September have also been tortured forcing some of them to admit to the crime.

Those convicted of poaching are being handed heavy sentences ranging from 15 years and above, a clear signal that this is a serious crime.

However, the question that begs an answer is what do the law enforcement agencies and the rangers seek to achieve by torturing villagers?

Is it not wise if they have evidence linking them to the crime to subject them to the country’s competent judicial system?

What has happened to the maxim that a person is innocent until proven guilty?

We found it disgusting that the Tsholotsho chairperson of the Campfire project Vumile Dube had the temerity to condone Zondo’s torture alleging that he had been teaching villagers to kill elephants for a long time.

Instead of recommending that villagers should be tortured, people such as Dube should be assisting law enforcement agents with evidence of people behind poaching at the Hwange National Park.

There have been statements by the MDC-T and environmentalists that there are bigwigs behind the mass deaths of elephants that are being killed for their tusks.

The heavy handed approach by the game rangers and other law enforcement agents should raise suspicious that there are some people seeking to cover up their tracks through the targeting of poor villagers.

Human rights organisations should be making noise about these naked violations in Tsholotsho and the government’s voice on this should be heard as of yesterday.

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