3 more parks officials acquitted of theft of $3m rhino horns

THREE Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife officials, who were accused of stealing 56 rhino horns worth $3 million were acquitted by a Harare magistrate yesterday at the close of the State case.

BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE

Padgewell Mazoyo, audit manager, Gift Kuwora and former security officer, Munyaradzi Nhira were acquitted by Harare magistrate Bianca Makwande just a month after former Parks director-general Edson Chidziya was acquitted of the same charges.

The court found out that the evidence provided by the State was not sufficient to make a conviction, since most of the witnesses were giving conflicting evidence and not part of the forensic audit, which revealed the missing 56 rhino horns.

“The auditor only revealed the forensic audit report from 2014 but was silent on the audit of previous years. It is unfair to convict the accused on assumption that by the time the audit was carried the horns were not stolen,” Makwande said.

The magistrate said there was no evidence presented in court that there were only one set of keys to the strong room.

“At the close of the State case, the State should have shown a probability of evidence that the suspects were the only ones entrusted with the strong room keys and the keys might be accessed by other officers. No audit report was placed before the court to show how many rhinos were in stock.”

The court heard that sometime between September 2012 and May 1, 2013, Chidziya acted as the director-general for ZimParks and was responsible for the smooth running of ZimParks.

It was alleged that during his tenure of office, Chidziya caused the breach of security procedures of game products under his care. Between December 2012 and July 2015, Chidziya alleged to have given orders to Mazoyo, Kuwora and Nhira to exchange keys to the ivory strong room.

The court heard that this was done without a proper handover and takeover procedure, by-passing the standard laid out security procedure. It is alleged that the actions led to 56 rhino horns being stolen.

The court heard the theft was discovered during an audit, which was carried out in July 2015. The State alleged as the accounting officer, Chidziya was handed the audit report and instead of reporting the matter to the police, he kept quiet about the issue.

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