ZIMBABWE Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) former director-general Edson Chidziya was yesterday acquitted on charges of abuse of office and concealing an audit report showing missing 56 rhino horns worth $3 million to his superiors.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
Chidziya had through his lawyer Lovemore Madhuku denied the charges, arguing that the evidence proffered by the State was baseless.
In passing judgment, regional magistrate Elijah Makomo ruled that the evidence given by State witnesses could not sustain a conviction.
“The said rhino horns were kept in the strong room since 1960 and it is suggested that before this audit no proper audit was carried out and it will be unfair to convict the accused on assumption as it is possible the horns might have been missing before the accused assumed office,”Makomo said.
On allegations of concealing the audit report, Makomo said the former ZimParks board chairperson, Enias Tichafa Mundangepfupfu was not a credible witness, saying he assumed office in 2016 after the internal auditor and the accused had supplied the information to the previous board and the Environment ministry.
“The court found out that the witness Mundangepfupfu was not a credible witness. He assumed the office in 2016 after the accused had already supplied the said information to the previous board and the testimony he supplied was clearly hearsay, the accused is found not guilty and acquitted.”
The court heard that Chidziya landed the director-general’s post in May 2013 and immediately assumed the role of accounting officer responsible for the authority’s assets, including game products under his care.
In the course of his duties, Chidziya ordered his subordinates to exchange keys to the ivory strong room, by-passing the standard laid out security procedures.
The State had claimed that as a result of breach of security procedures, 56 rhino horns were stolen, leading to Chidziya’s arrest. The State had also accused Chidziya of failing to advise the board of the outcome of a 2015 audit report which exposed the alleged theft.