Police in Matabeleland North on Saturday arrested three men in Dete, Hwange, after they allegedly failed to account for the six elephant tusks valued at $15 000 and an AK rifle with 29 live rounds of ammunition they were found carrying.
The arrest came shortly after police launched “Operation Kutakura Tsotso” (Anti-Contraband) early this month to curb possession and transportation of goods and minerals, among other items, without proper documentation.
Police Assistant Commissioner in charge of administration in Matabeleland North Sithulisiwe Mokuele on Monday told NewsDay the suspects were spotted on Saturday morning while carrying suspicious objects.
“On August 27 at about 4am police received information that three men were seen carrying some objects that looked like elephant tusks in Chezhou village, Dete,” she said.
“The police then tracked the spoor leading to the homestead of Nyamasawu Phiri. They found the elephant tusks buried at the centre of the homestead and the AK rifle with 29 live rounds of ammunition buried in the kraal.”
Mokuele said after interrogation, Phiri led the police to his two colleagues who were also arrested.
“The suspects are now assisting police with investigations as they want to establish where the three got the AK rifle and the rounds of ammunition,” she said.
This is the second arrest of people found with tusks.
Last Friday, a South African man, Thulani Ngubane, was slapped with a five-year jail term after he was convicted of illegal possession of elephant tusks worth $4 875.
Ngubane (24), of Chapman Castle in South Africa, pleaded guilty to illegal possession of elephant tusks when he appeared before Binga resident magistrate Stephen Ndlovu.
His alleged accomplices Mzwandile Mkize (24) and Mpumelelo Ndlovu (30), whose residential addresses were not given in court, have since denied the charge.
Mkize and Ndlovu were remanded in custody to September 9 for continuation of trial.