By Jeffrey Muvundusi
BULAWAYO – Two suspected elephant poachers in the on-going cyanide saga that saw more than 100 elephants at the Hwange National Park being killed last year have been acquitted.
Clever Khumalo, 44 and Sipho Mafu, 54 were found not guilty when they appeared before a Bulawayo regional magistrate Sikhumbuzo Nyathi last Friday. Khumalo and Mafu had pleaded not guilty to four charges of violating the Environmental Management Agency and Parks and Wildlife Acts.
In acquitting the two, magistrate Nyathi said there was no evidence linking the two to the State allegations of poisoning elephants and possession of ivory. The said ivory could also not be produced in court as an exhibit.
Nyathi also cited lack of corroboration in statements put forward by witnesses who gave conflicting evidence.
The state had alleged that sometime in July last year the two accused persons together with Mthandazo Tshuma who is still at large, killed unspecified elephants using cyanide before dehorning them and taking their tusks.
Sanelisiwe Dube, 31 whose whereabouts were not stated in the case was assigned by the accused persons to help acquire cyanide for their mission.
Dube reportedly went to her former workmate only identified as Buzuzu who was working at NFS Chemicals where she acquired a drum of cyanide without necessarily following the requirements, the court was told.
The State further alleged that Dube later supplied the chemical to Khumalo who then passed it on to Mafu and Tshuma. The deadly chemical was later poured into different animal watering holes as well as into the grazing lands in the Hwange National Park.
This led to a number of elephants succumbing to the poison. They allegedly took a total of 22 tusks weighing 249 kg which they transported to Harare for sale to potential clients.
Khumalo was reportedly intercepted by Harare detectives while on his way to deliver the ivory to an unnamed buyer but was later released under unclear circumstances.
Meanwhile, the court also acquitted the five detectives from Harare who had spent three months in remand prison, after the court failed to gather any incriminating evidence against them.
The detectives were facing fraud charges after demanding a bribe from Khumalo whom they nabbed with a vehicle carrying ivory. The detectives included Assistant Inspector Alois Gakata, Wellington Jena, Shadreck Rore, Donald Dube and Chrispen Musonza. Daily News