Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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SundayOpinion: Zanu PF, aliens colluding in poaching syndicates

SundayOpinion: Zanu PF, aliens colluding in poaching syndicates

Sunday, 23 October 2011 11:39

In March this year, Richard Emslie, chief scientific officer for the Species 
Survival Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of 
Nature and head of African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG), told a meeting of 
top rhino experts gathered in South Africa that poachers had slaughtered 
more than 800 rhinos in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe in 2010 alone.

Emslie also told the three governments why the rhino conservation lobby was 
deeply concerned about the ongoing butchery: “Although good biological 
management and anti-poaching efforts have led to modest population-gains for 
both black and white African rhino, we are still very concerned about the 
increasing involvement of organised criminal poaching networks, and that 
unless the rapid escalation in poaching in recent years can be halted, 
continental rhino numbers could once again start to decline.”

At a local level, we are now concerned that unlike South Africa and Kenya, 
which took the advice of the experts and turned the tide against rhino 
poaching, the Zimbabwean government is not doing anything to save this 
endangered species. We do not understand why the government has not taken 
robust action to crackdown on the Harare-based, Chinese-sponsored syndicates 
which are responsible for rhino plunder in conservancies around the country. 
However, we fear that this is because top government and “party” officials 
are implicated, as are members of various arms of the security forces.

This has been proven in many court cases where poachers have turned out to 
be serving or retired troopers. Some ministers and top Zanu PF politicians 
have also been named in various reports as the prime suspects behind many 
poaching syndicates.

With the rhino horn selling for as much as US$60 000 per kg on the black 
market, it is not difficult to understand why greedy politicians can’t avoid 
spilling rhino blood to shorten their route to riches.

We are even more concerned that despite numerous cases where evidence of the 
complicity of members of the security forces is presented in court, there 
seems to be no institutional measures taken to weed out poachers from among 
their ranks. The rhino conservation lobby is also disturbed by government 
in-action against the continued use of state-owned firearms in poaching. The 
AK-47 rifles and heavy machine guns which poachers use to kill rhinos are 
defined as arms of war in this country and as such, they are not sold in any 
gunshop but are owned by government, and issued only to the security forces.

So we maintain that poachers source these high-calibre assault rifles from 
the national security armoury. Recently, parks-director Vitalis Chadenga 
told a collection of local, German and British “environmental” journalists 
that the poaching scourge is the work of foreign syndicates. True and well 
said, but Zimbabweans also know that foreigners operate here with local help 
and enjoy protection from “party” politicians, rogue elements of the 
security forces, parks officials and even provincial magistrates (as in one 
district of Matabeleland North) who are part of the syndicates.

There is no doubt that foreigners —South Africans, Russians, Chinese, 
Americans, the British and the French — are deeply involved. But the Gwayi 
Valley Hunting Report of 2003 which mentions these nationalities also shines 
a brighter light on many local politicians who colluded with the foreigners 
in poaching all over that Intensive Conservation Area between 2000 and 2003.

Our fear is that the poaching crisis will escalate because Zanu PF 
officials, securocrats and their Chinese benefactors are too deeply 
involved. There is also a clear lack of political will to stop it in both 
factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) because species 
conservation does not seem to have a place on their agendas.

The Parks and Wildlife Management Authority claims that the country has over 
1 000 rhinos but we find this very difficult to believe because authority 
has no history of accuracy with figures. Instead, it has a long reputation 
of doctoring figures to keep poaching casualty figures as low as possible to 
fool the world and please the political master in Zanu PF.

Instead of taking measures to protect rhinos, the authority is working hard 
to distort reality and downplay the intensity of the poaching crisis. The 
crisis is much bigger and it cannot be dressed up or sanitised by naked 

Poaching will not stop until Zanu PF stops encouraging supporters to invade 
and poach with impunity in conservancies as continues to happen in Masvingo, 
the Save Valley, Chiredzi and Gwanda.

The conservation of threatened species will not happen when senior 
politicians encourage invaders to stay put in conservancies and eat all the 
animals if they choose to, simply because they are the black Zanu PF 
followers and the conservancy owners are white like the Rhodesians used to 


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