Villagers accused of assisting poachers
VILLAGERS in Chikandakubi Ward in Hwange District have been accused of harbouring suspected poachers who they allegedly assist to kill wildlife in the area.
Villagers from Masikili area in Hwange Rural District Council Ward 1 met on Wednesday in Matetsi where it was revealed that four unnamed villagers in Chikandakubi were recently found with loads of dried game meat suspected to have been poached.
Ward 1 Councillor Elias Muzamba organised the meeting in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Victoria Falls office to deliberate on how to deal with illegal hunting following poisoning of 13 elephants in Chikandakubi recently.
Speaking at the meeting, HRDC Ward 19 Clr Mathew Muleya who is also a Zimparks ranger appealed to villagers not to protect poachers.
“Criminal activity in our area started with stock thieves who would drive cattle across the Zambezi River into Zambia. That changed into crocodile poaching as people used crocodile liver as poison. Now we have escalating cases of use of cyanide, surely we need to work together to weed out the culprits from our community,” said Clr Muleya.
He said rangers and police alone will not be able to fight illegal hunting without the involvement of communities.
Without mentioning names, Clr Muleya said they had apprehended four village heads but released them on the basis of being community leaders.
“Traditional leaders should lead by example but we have some village heads who are selling game meat. Four of them were arrested but we had to warn them because they are our community elders as it would have been a disgrace for them to go to jail. However, next time they are caught we won’t negotiate,” he added.
Chief Shana of Jambezi said village heads who would be caught working in cahoots with criminals risk being stripped of their badges. Speaking at the same occasion, the officer-in-charge of Matetsi Police Base Sergeant Humphrey Zimucha appealed to villagers to report presence of strangers in their areas as he challenged traditional leaders to lead by example in the fight against crime.
“Cyanide cases are worrisome, especially considering the techniques used by poachers. We therefore appeal to villagers for information because we struggle to make arrests as people defend each other. We must be careful not to be used by criminals because we will lose all our heritage. We are worried to hear that some village heads are involved,” he said.
It came out that Chikandakubi community and parts of Matetsi are notorious for poaching. Zanu-PF Matabeleland North provincial Secretary for Environment Cde Shirlly Mlotshwa challenged the community to collaborate in conserving natural resources.
The meeting was attended by traditional leaders, heads of Government departments, anti-poaching teams working in the district, Zimparks and scores of villagers.
Zimparks director-general Mr Fulton Mangwanya last week said engagements were underway to push for stiffer penalties on those found with cyanide as he appealed for collaboration from all stakeholders including communities against poaching.
President Mugabe on Friday capped Sunday News assistant Editor Mkhululi Sibanda, Senior Reporter Robin Muchetu (inset left) and Proof-reader Nomalanga Sibanda (inset centre) who all graduated with Bachelor of Arts Hons Degree in Languages and Communication Studies while Precious Dube graduated with Bachelor of Commerce Honours Degree in Accounting and Finance at Lupane State University in Lupane on Friday. (Picture by Eliah Saushoma)