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Police to investigate Grace Mugabe over missing ivory

Barnabas Thondhlana

Zimbabwe has set up a special task force to look into the illicit and illegal export of tonnes of ivory and rhinocerous tusks, allegedly spearheaded by former First Lady Grace Mugabe.

Special Advisor to the President, Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa confirmed Saturday that the administration had placed conservation at the top of its list.

“We should make a pronouncement very soon. We are not allowing anyone to get away with the proliferation of our wildlife resources. Any person despite whom they are married to will be arrested,” Mutsvangwa said.

He said that a special taskforce was working with local and international law enforcement agencies to investigate and bring culprits implicated in the syndicate to justice.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that the former first lady and her associates were involved in the poaching of elephant tusks and rhino horns.

“We have documents which implicate Grace Mugabe and a number of close associates, including a Chinese associate (name supplied) in a ring of organised crime which is responsible for the poisoning of hundreds of jumbos in the country,” Mutsvangwa said.

Several tusks are also said to have disappeared from the ivory stock piles, while some ivory was carved at factories in Harare, before export permits were forged.

The new government in Zimbabwe has taken a no nonsense approach to conservation and vowed to arrest any person’s implicated or involved in poaching ‘regardless of who they are, or who they know’.

Sources close to the investigations that the poaching of the elephants was a large criminal enterprise which operated and thrived on the support and protection of the former first lady.

Conservation taskforce activists have welcome the government’s move, stating that for years they had watched what was ‘near state sponsored poaching’ annihilate the wildlife population.

According to sources, the government is working closely with activists and corroborating data so as to track the activities and effect arrests ‘soon’.

Environment, Water and Climate minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told the media that former First Lady Grace would occasionally raid the country’s ivory stockpile kept at the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) and on the basis that they were her donations to unnamed fellow first ladies in the Far East.

Muchinguri-Kashiri said the ivory stockpile was raided the most when the Environment ministry was assigned to former minister, Edgar Mbwembwe, whose tenure as minister was shortlived after the country’s levers of power changed hands from former president Robert Mugabe to his long-time protégé Emmerson Mnangagwa.

She said that she has commissioned an investigation into the matter and a report will be released soon.

Muchinguri-Kashiri also revealed that a police officer who was leading investigations into a consignment of 200 kilogrammes of ivory worth at least $2 million intercepted by security details at the Robert Mugabe International Airport in December last year, had died mysteriously in Mozambique. The consignment was destined for the Far East.

 

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