WITH the ecological disaster in the vast Hwange National Park still unfolding amid indications that almost 200 elephants could have been lost to poaching since January, reports that villagers from Chief Siphoso’s area in Tsholotsho District have asked government to instruct police to refrain from arresting them so that they give up their heinous deeds are unfathomable.
Despite their shocking acts, the villagers seem to be dangling a carrot — if you refrain from arresting us then we will persuade each other to protect the jumbos.
Sadly, Environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere has yielded to the demands telling the villagers that Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi had agreed to grant the amnesty. What hogwash!
We believe the government must remain resolute and ensure that the culprits are brought to book. This is no time for politicking. It is certainly not time to buy votes at the expense of a national resource.
For what shall Zimbabwe become in the next 10-15 years if we allow the villagers and their cohorts to decimate our wildlife and go scot free? Zimbabwe is known for its abundance of wildlife, which has over the years been the backbone of the tourism industry.
Yet, these poaching syndicates hosted by willing Tsholotsho villagers are slowly killing the tourism industry.
The villagers have already confessed to their crime and the law should take its course. What assurance does the government have that these people will give up their practice? It is unfortunate that this practice of poisoning elephants has been going on for some time now without being noticed. It speaks to the effectiveness of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Environmental Management Agency. What has become of Zimparks’ mandate to protect wildlife?
The villagers are just a small component of sophisticated poaching syndicates which need to be stopped in their tracks.
We urge Kasukuwere, the police and all security forces to come together to investigate the possible links of politicians and influential businessmen to international ivory smuggling rings operating in Zimbabwe. We believe that the Tsholotsho villagers could only be forgiven if they reveal their buyers — locally and international regardless of their station in life.
We need to eradicate this culture of killing once and for all. People, in Tsholotsho and elsewhere living alongside wildlife should benefit from their resource through organised wildlife harvesting programmes such as the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (campfire).
Kasukuwere should ensure the revival of this organisation to ensure protection of the wildlife resource, not the amnesty that he’s so quick to grant. What does he fear to get to the bottom of the matter? Are his colleagues in government involved? So why be so quick without any conclusive investigation to grant amnesty?
There should not be blanket amnesty for the poachers otherwise we set a wrong precedent. Wildlife is our heritage, they depend on communities where they stay for survival – there should be co-existence with wildlife.