Four armed ‘poachers’nabbed
POLICE arrested four armed men, some putting on anti-tracking shoes, for allegedly hunting a rhino at Save Valley Conservancy in Chiredzi.
Fianda Chitiga (35) of Hatcliffe in Harare, Custom Mugejo (45) of Copper Queen in Gokwe, Shimmer Gwatidzo Bere (32) of Gudhare Village under Chief Dandawa in Hurungwe and Moses Moses (36) of Glen Norah in Harare allegedly went to Save Valley armed with rifles that had silencers, with the intention to hunt rhinoceros.
The quartet pleaded not guilty to contravening the Parks and Wildlife Act, which prohibits hunting of specified protected animals and possessing of dangerous weapons when they appeared before Masvingo provincial magistrate Mr Langton Ndokera on Tuesday.
The four were remanded in custody to Friday after the court ordered the State to investigate their complaints against police.
The men complained that they were assaulted by police and were not given an opportunity to seek legal representation.
For the State Ms Nancy Makuvise said on Friday last week at around 8AM, police from Chiredzi received a tip off that a gang of suspected armed poachers were spotted at Save Valley Conservancy.
“Police detectives teamed up with Save Valley Conservancy rangers and support unit details to patrol the conservancy. On Saturday at around 7AM, the four suspects were spotted in Chishakwe Paddocks in Save Valley Conservancy hunting,” said Ms Makuvise.
Ms Makuvise said the team ambushed three of the suspects who were following the spoor of a rhinoceros.
The rangers and police realised that Chitiga and Mugejo were putting on anti-tracking shoes while Bere had socks on his shoes, apparently to hide his trail.
Police and rangers then sprang from their vintage points, fired two warning shots, and ordered the suspects to lie down before arresting them.
Police realised that Chitiga had a 303 rifle serial number V7948 fitted with a silencer and nine rounds of ammunition while Mugejo was armed with a 458 rifle serial number 9825, also fitted with a silencer. He had 21 rounds of ammunition in his possession while Bere was carrying bags with sheath knives, a torch and food stuffs.
Further investigations by police led to the arrest of the third suspect, Moses who had allegedly dropped the three and was waiting to pick them up after execution of their mission.
“Moses who was driving Ford Ranger and waiting to pick Chitiga, Mugejo and Bere was arrested at Msaizi River along Mbuyanehanda-Chiremwaremwa Road after being called by Chitiga,” she said.
The court heard that the suspects were also using a Mazda Cronos belonging to Chitiga which police recovered along Mutare-Masvingo Road but the driver could not be located.
The recovered fire arms, three satchel bags, three sheath knives and two vehicles were available as exhibits.