Walter Nyamukondiwa,Kariba Bureau
The Bodies of two Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) rangers who went missing on December 31 have been found between Spurwing and Long Islands in Lake Kariba, with their hands tied behind their backs, and taken to Harare for post-mortem.
Timothy Tembo and Mabharani Chidhumo’s bodies were discovered yesterday morning by a search team that had been combing the lake since last Wednesday.
The heavily wounded bodies were initially taken to Kariba District Hospital before being airlifted to Harare.
ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo confirmed the development in a tweet yesterday.
“It is with great sadness that our two missing rangers have been found dead in Lake Kariba,” he said. “@Zimparks wants to thank stakeholders, sister security departments, who worked tirelessly to search for our rangers.
“The two rangers are indeed conservation heroes. @Zimparks family & conservation partners are in deep mourning. The bodies have been airlifted to Harare for post-mortem.”
The bodies had multiple wounds, with one of them having a deep gush above the left eye, while the other had what seemed like a stab wound from a suspected spear on the right side of the chest.
Circumstances surrounding their death points to a callous murder where the rangers were subdued and later tied with ropes before being thrown into the lake.
Investigations have now shifted to finding out how the two rangers died, with the possibility of them having been hacked before having their hands tied behind their backs and thrown into the water.
Police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the retrieval of one body, saying the matter was being treated as murder.
“As police, we can confirm the retrieval of the body of one of the rangers this morning (yesterday) in the lake after nearly a week of searching,” he said.
“We are treating this as a murder case and investigations are still in progress.”
Asst Comm Nyathi could, however, not confirm the discovery of the other body, saying he had not received information about it.
According to sources close to the investigations, the rangers, who numbered three during the patrol, allegedly encountered four Zambian poachers who had encroached onto the Zimbabwean side of Lake Kariba and managed to arrest them.
The rangers took the poachers to their camp at Changa Island before leaving behind their colleague and firearms and ventured into the lake, reportedly on their way to Kariba urban for further handling of the case.
One of the poachers was said to be a former inmate at Karoi Prison.
It is not clear why the rangers left behind their firearms and chose to escort the four poachers unarmed, while clearly outnumbered. Speculation is rife that the rangers and the poachers had agreed to settle the matter among themselves before the poachers attacked the rangers. It remains to be seen what investigations will unravel.
The boat that the rangers were using to transport the suspected poachers from Zambia was found near Siavonga in Zambia, without an engine. It has not yet been recovered.
The boat showed signs of having been scotched in a futile attempt to conceal evidence.