Private companies have started busting the effects of sanctions, with Mbada Diamonds yesterday donating at least 20 patrol vehicles to the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to be used for anti-poaching in game parks. The parks authority has been failing to fulfil its mandate in protecting wildlife after some donors withdrew their support following the imposition of illegal sanctions on the country by the West.
This weakened the authority resulting in its failure to patrol the game parks and deal with poaching.
Recently, some poachers used cyanide to poison elephants. Mbada will handover the Land Rover Defender vehicles worth more than US$1,2 million in batches of five and at least 10 have been availed.
Mbada Diamonds chief administration officer Mr Major Mahlangu said they increased the number of the vehicles from 10 which were previously pledged after 11 more elephant carcasses were found at Hwange this week, bringing to more than 100 the number that has died so far due to cyanide poisoning.
“What has transpired in Hwange National Park to our elephants and other wildlife species is synonymous to the use and deployment of arms of mass destruction — chemical and biological warfare against our wildlife heritage,” he said.
Mr Mahlangu said national response on poaching should be swift, resolute, coordinated and sustained.
“The implications of the tragedy are potentially catastrophic if not decisively brought under check,” he said.
It is our hope and trust that these vehicles will be deployed in the national park for anti-poaching exercise.
We are organising a fund-raising dinner to be held in the first week of November where we are going to invite corporate and willing citizens to donate to a national cause, but it will also be a platform to unveil other fund-raising strategies.”
Environment, Water and Climate Deputy Minister Engineer Simon Musanhu said 12 people have been arrested in connection with the poisoning, while four were handed effective 16-year jail terms each and charged restitution fee of US$800 000 collectively.
“The sentencing of these poachers is commendable and these vehicles will assist in fast deployment of rangers to hot spots and will also boost the morale of the rangers who for a long period were facing severe monitoring and surveillance challenges with transport, he said.
“We all know that the current vehicles being used by the authority have outlived their life span with 90 percent of them having been used for more than 10 years. The vehicles have also become costly to maintain due to constant break-downs and lack of availability of spare parts.”
Eng Musanhu said the authority required 100 new vehicles to fulfil their mandate.
“My ministry will continuously engage the judiciary so that deterrent sentences are given in all wildlife cases that are brought before the courts countrywide,” he said. The vehicles are for field operations and not for personal use by senior officers.
Eng Musanhu said that preservation of human lives was important and he urged senior managers in the authority to ensure that any officer who was going to drive the vehicles would go for a defensive driving test first.