via Eight nabbed for elephant poisoning – New Zimbabwe 25/11/2015
HWANGE: A joint operation between cops and Parks and Wildlife has netted eight villagers who are believed to be part of a poaching syndicate that has been poisoning elephants in the Hwange National Park.
Close to 70 elephants were found dead in the last three months at different points within the game park, with the biggest number at Sinamatela Camp.
Eight men Forget Shoko, 26, Stephen Moyo, 45, Gift Ndlovu, 31, Makwikwi Mujeje, James Nkomo, 75, Thandazani Sibindi, 30, Phathisa Moyo, 25, and Ngangezwe Khumalo, 29 on Tuesday appeared before Hwange magistrate Lindiwe Maphosa.
They were charged individually and jointly for crimes ranging from illegal possession of cyanide, illegal possession of firearms and illegal possession of raw ivory.
Shoko is from Lubangwe under Chief Shana, Moyo and Nkomo are from Dete, Ndlovu from Hwange district and Mujeje from Hwange town while Sibindi, Phathisa and Khumalo are from Tsholotsho under Chief Siphoso.
Shoko who, on Friday last week, was found in possession of a pair of ivory weighing 26kg and valued at $6, 500, pleaded guilty to the crime and was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
He confessed he administered cyanide while in the company of Moyo, Nkomo and Mujeje in the national park.
Surprisingly, Nkomo was freed after charges against him were withdrawn while Mujeje escaped with a $200 fine with an alternative three months jail term.
Moyo also had lighter sentence of seven months (three months for possessing cyanide without a licence, two months for possessing a firearm and a further two months for possessing 108 twists of mbanje) which were recovered buried in a small hole together with nine rounds of ammunition at his homestead.
Sibindi, Phathisa and Khumalo will know their fate on December 8 after the court deferred trial to allow the State to investigate further.
The trio was found in possession of three tusks and 5kg of cyanide.
Ndlovu, in whose car a 375 rifle was found, had charges withdrawn after Mujeje exonerated him by telling the court the firearm was his.
Prosecutor, Onias Nyathi, told the court that Ndlovu and Mujeje were arrested on September 9 at a roadblock in Lupane when a team of security agents stopped and searched the car leading to the recovery of the rifle hidden in the boot.
Through a tip off, cops proceeded to Dete where Moyo and Nkomo were arrested and they indicated that they had cyanide which they were keeping in the bush.
A kilogramme of the deadly substance was recovered.
Shoko was arrested in Lubangwe leading to recovery of a pair of tusks weighing 26kg and valued at $6, 500.
Sibindi, Phathisa and Khumalo were also arrested on the same day and a 5kg bag of cyanide and three tusks were recovered.
In 2013, more than 100 elephants died as a result of cyanide poisoning where poachers would administer the substance on salt pans and water points.
Poachers renewed the attack three months ago in the national park and officials from the Parks and Wildlife have expressed concern over trivialisation of the cases by the courts.