Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Four people have been arrested in connection with suspected rhino poaching in Matobo National Park while an MDC-T legislator for Tsholotsho (Proportional Representation), Ms Lwazi Sibanda, has been questioned, police confirmed yesterday.
Matobo National Park is located in Matabeleland South.
The four suspects include Munyaradzi Mwonzora, young brother to the MDC-T secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora. Others are Clement Mazhandu (39), Shadreck Kuvarega (39), and Brighton Nkosilathi Nyathi (26).
They were arrested by Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers on Tuesday afternoon who then handed them over to Matobo police.
Mwonzora is also an MDC-T councillor in Nyanga.
The quartet was arrested after they were suspected of tracking a rhinoceros spoor in the park.
It is also alleged that Ms Sibanda was earlier on spotted in the same park conducting surveillance prior to the arrival of Mwonzora and his accomplices.
National police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi yesterday said further investigations into the matter were underway.
The four are expected to appear in court in Kezi on Wednesday next week.
“We arrested the four suspects in connection with poaching activities in Matopo National Park. More information will be provided when we complete the ongoing investigations” he said.
“The MDC-T MP was summoned to Hillside Police Station in Bulawayo where she was questioned and released following her visit to Mwonzora at Matopo police station”.
The suspects’ lawyer, Mr Kholwani Ngwenya, said yesterday that his clients had been charged with criminal trespass and that they would appear in court on Wednesday next week.
He said the four were released on summons and that the MP’s vehicle was also searched as the police suspected that it was carrying a gun, which they intended to use for poaching.
“They were arrested by rangers on Tuesday afternoon who later handed them to the police on Wednesday morning.
“Actually, Mwonzora and others were going to an area called Gulaki where he intended to buy a vehicle. Along the way they came across wild beasts and followed them when one of them said he hadn’t seen them in his whole life,” said Mr Ngwenya.
He said the four then followed a path for some distance unaware that they were following a rhino spoor and they were intercepted by parks rangers.
Mr Ngwenya said at some point which they had passed, there were prints of the butt of a gun which made the rangers believe that the group was on a poaching mission.
Ms Sibanda refused to comment on the matter last night referring all the questions to Mr Ngwenya (her lawyer).
The incident comes a few weeks after the Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, raised concern on the rampant poaching in the country’s national parks saying highly placed people, staff in rural district councils and some safari operators were involved in the vice.