HARARE – Police in Gokwe have come under fire for allegedly hiring out unregistered fire arms and selling ammunition to poachers in a syndicate that is threatening elephant population in the area.
This follows an investigation by Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority (ZimParks) which has led to the arrest of Zengeni Chitekete, a constable, found in possession of four illegal fire arms.
In the report gleaned by the Daily News, which was compiled by a ZimParks investigative officer at their Gokwe office, Richard Gutu, Chitekete was arrested by operatives from ZRP support unit working together with ZimParks and Matusadona Anti-Poaching Project (Mapp) while trying to hire out one of the weapons to a known poacher.
He was, however, released by ZRP Gokwe under unclear circumstances.
“On the May 10, 2017, acting on a tip-off, we gathered information from our reliable informer that … police base was holding a lot of unregistered firearms which they are hiring to poachers and also selling to would-be buyers,” the report said.
“A trap was laid after one … Zengeni had agreed to sell six rifles at $1 500 or to hire one of the firearms. We then decided for the hire and he brought one of the firearms to our informer who requested to return it back and bring him a better one.
“On his way to return the firearm at around 2100hrs, we then intercepted him carrying the rifle. The support team arrested … Zengeni and a search was conducted at his base where three other rifles were recovered.
“The accused refused to identify the owners of the rifles and a call was made to the Dispol (a) Madondo who advised us to recover everything and bring the constable to Gokwe. And on arrival at Gokwe time 01:00 am. They recorded our statements and booked the exhibits on ref OB 34/05/17 they advised us that the CR will be opened by the I/C Crime in the morning,” the report added.
Items recovered included three 303 rifles, one 22 rifle, one magazine of F.N Rifle with five live rounds.
The report further claims: “The following morning when we requested the RRB and the CR of the case we were told that police are doing their investigations first and we saw that they were now trying to cover up since it involves a lot of people.
“Some of the rifles were taken from old people and (have spent)almost seven years in police custody.
“We request your intervention in this matter as we have established the source of all illegal weapons killing our beloved wildlife and taking a police base as an amour of illegal firearms.”
Animal welfare taskforce, Mapp, who are assisting in fighting the scourge of elephant poaching in Zimbabwe, said a well-orchestrated syndicate was killing elephants in the area at an alarming rate.
In a statement, Mapp accused members within the police of protecting rogue officers who were involved in the scam.