Police have intensified investigations into a case in which former First Lady Mrs Grace Mugabe allegedly smuggled ivory worth millions of dollars to underground foreign markets.
Sources close to the investigations yesterday confirmed the developments and said they were still working with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) investigators, who have since submitted key documents relevant to the allegations to the police.
Preliminary indications are that Mrs Mugabe spirited large consignments of ivory to China, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, among other destinations.
The former First Lady will soon be questioned by law enforcers, but some of the officials in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), whom she allegedly ordered to facilitate the illicit deals have since been questioned.
A source close to the investigations said: “We are closing in with our investigations and we are working closely with the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority investigators.
“We have also picked up and questioned several suspects whom we believe are linked to the case.”
The sources could not divulge the number of suspects that they have picked up so far, except that they recently arrested one F Madzinga from the OPC.
According to the sources, Madzinga has since appeared in court and is out on bail.
Although police could not confirm the latest developments, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba recently told The Sunday Mail that, “a report was made by an anonymous source and investigations are on, although still in early stages”.
Information at hand suggests Mrs Mugabe ordered officials to issue her with export permits under the pretext that she was sending the ivory to leaders of various countries as “gifts”.
Once outside Zimbabwe, it is alleged, the “gifts” would be pooled with other consignments of the product and routed to black markets.
It is believed Mrs Mugabe involved OPC officials in obtaining the permits which are issued in terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
At one point, the officials allegedly forced ZimParks director-general Mr Fulton Mangwanya to sign for consignments he had not inspected.
On October 29 2017, officials reportedly acting on Mrs Mugabe’s instructions, wrote to Mr Mangwanya saying: “Urgent CITES permit is being sought to clear State gifts presented by the principal to guests from China on Sunday, 29 October 2017.
“The guests will be returning to China on Monday, 30 October 2017 with morning flight, which will depart Harare International Airport at 0800hours, hence requesting that the urgent CITES permit should be ready today (Sunday, 29 October 2017).
“The gifts have been purchased by Office of the President and Cabinet from F Madzinga Ivory Manufacturers of Harare.”
Several other such letters were written between 2016 and 2017.
ZimParks spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said: “The Zimbabwe Republic Police have requested permit documents processed by one F. Madzinga, with a view to photocopying them.
“The international relations office, in liaison with the investigations office, recommends that the documents be accompanied by senior ranger (security) Cavin Majuru and senior ranger (permits) S Gushe.”
President Mnangagwa’s Special Advisor, Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa, recently said the OPC was seized with the matter.
“Investigations are certainly on,” he said.
“We received a report from a whistleblower and some of her clients. Police and the whistleblowers laid a trap for suppliers believed to be working for Grace Mugabe.
“The culprits were caught and that is how the investigations started.
“When we were confronted with so much evidence, there was no way we could ignore; we had to act.”
Zimbabwe has over the years suffered rampant poaching, with elephants the prime targets on account of their tusks which are used for ornaments and medicine.