Isdore Guvamombe Features Editor—-
THREE of the eight poachers arrested for spawning the Hwange ecological disaster after poisoning water holes and salt pans with cyanide pellets killing over 87 elephants and an indeterminate number of other animals on the food chain were yesterday jailed for an effective 16 years each.
Hwange provincial magistrate Mrs Rosemary Dube yesterday sentenced Robert Maposa (42), Thabani Zondo (24) and Dedani Tshuma (25) to 16 years in prison each for illegal possession of ivory and contravening Section 73 (1) of the Environment Management Act that prohibits the possession and discharge of hazardous substances, chemicals, materials or oil into the environment.
Cyanide is a fast-acting poison that was stockpiled as a chemical weapon in the arsenals of both the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, and that requires up to a generation to bio-degrade on a large scale.
The cyanide has created an ecological disaster in the vast national park where animals are dying daily as the poisoning travels up the food chain. Maposa and Zondo were jailed for 15 years for illegal possession of ivory and another year for contravening the EMA Act.
They were further ordered to pay US$600 000 restitution to the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority by December 31.
Tshuma was sentenced to 16 years for illegal possession of ivory and was further ordered to pay US$200 000 by December 31. At least 87 elephants died of poisoning in Hwange National Park, Africa’s third largest wildlife sanctuary after Tanzania’s Serengeti and South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
Environment, Water and Climate Minister Saviour Kasukuwere took to his twitter account to welcome the verdict, saying: “We welcome the bold stance by the Judiciary. Let’s protect and preserve our wildlife.’’
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority public relations manager Ms Caroline Washaya-Moyo said the remaining five poachers would appear in court soon facing similar charges.
“We hail the sentence as very effective and deterrent. The other five poachers are expected to appear in court on October 4,’’ she said.