By Nomalanga Moyo
Police are said to be investigating an incident in which four people were allegedly shot and killed by suspected poachers in Binga, Matebeleland North.
The dead are believed to be illegal ivory buyers who were killed following a dispute over the price of some elephant tusks they planned to buy, according to Bulawayo-based Radio Dialogue which broke the story Tuesday.
Two former legislators have who spoke to SW Radio Africa on Wednesday confirmed the deaths of the ivory buyers, who included one local female dealer known as MaMoyo.
Available details suggest that the deceased were killed at an area along Kariangwe Road, where they had arranged to meet up with the poachers.
Villagers suspect a fall-out over the price of the elephant tusks may have led to the would-be buyers threatening to withdraw from the deal, leading to the killings.
Provincial police spokesperson assistant inspector Eglon Nkala professed ignorance of the shootings when SW Radio Africa contacted him Wednesday.
But former Binga North parliamentary representative Patrick Nene Sibanda said agents from the Criminal Investigations Department had visited him at his homestead as part of their probe.
Sibanda told SW Radio Africa Wednesday that although he had not seen the actual bodies of the alleged illegal ivory dealers, investigators had shown him some pictures.
“I don’t have the full details but what I gathered from security agents who visited my homestead, is that four people were killed,” Sibanda said.
He added: “The four had earlier been seen at Manjolo Business Centre driving a white twin cab towards the Muchesu area along Kariangwe Road. I understand that after killing the dealers, the poachers overturned the car so that the bodies were trapped underneath to make it appear like it was a fatal crash.”
The former MDC-T MP said investigating officers had even been to Nagoma health centre to check whether anyone had been to the facility seeking treatment for injuries sustained during the botched deal.
“I am a local leader and a driver, so officers approached me asking whether I had seen anything suspicious on the road and also to urge the community to come forward with any information about the incident.”
The poachers also allegedly decapitated the head of one their victims according to Sibanda.
Another former MP and well-known businessman Jealous Sansole corroborated the story and said three men and one woman appear to have been shot in the head before being bungled into an Isuzu twin cab and dumped by the roadside.
Sansole said he was not surprised that the police were reluctant to confirm the murders because usually, senior government officials are involved in the illegal ivory trade.
“People from this region know that although locals are also involved, poaching is mainly done by those from outside, especially Zambians and Namibians. The buyers are also people from outside this region and usually from Harare and other cities who use locals as contacts,” Sansole said.
The former Hwange legislator criticised the government for what he said is its reluctance to curb poaching.
“Villagers see these poachers, usually armed Zambians, moving around but police reaction to any reports is usually very slow. They steal our cattle and we make reports but nothing is done,” Sansole added.
His counterpart Sibanda called on government to provide adequate resources to departments such as the police and ZimParks to enable them to increase patrols and roadblocks in the area. SW Radio Africa