A Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management (ZimParks) patrol ranger has been arraigned before the courts after being found in possession of ammunition in his house, amid suspicion that he was involved in a poaching syndicate.
This was heard when Fungai Sibanda (35) appeared before Hwange regional magistrate Portia Mhlanga, accused of possessing ammunition without a permit.
It is the States’ case that last week at Umtshibi Camp in Hwange National Park, some rangers received a tip-off that Sibanda was involved in poaching and was into supplying rounds of ammunition to the poachers.
Following the lead, they proceeded to search his ZimParks-issued house and found him in possession of a San rifle, 31 AK-47 ammunition rounds and two mini round magazines hidden in different corners, leading to his arrest.
However, Sibanda denied the charge, arguing that the ammunition belonged to one of his workmates in prison for poaching.
The implicated workmate, Lameck Sankarwe, was arrested on June 22 by rangers on patrol soon after shooting an elephant and removing its tusks.
Sibanda alleged he was instructed to hide the ammunition by Sankarwe following his arrest.
Appearing before the same magistrate on Tuesday was a Gokwe man who exchanged gunshots with rangers in Tsholotsho after allegedly killing two elephants.
Christopher Mutindi (29), from Gwariro village under Chief Simchembo, was charged with unlawful possession of ivory, firearms and hunting.
The court heard that on June 28 at Vulashava in Hwange National Park, Mutindi, in the company of four accomplices who are still at large, entered the park and killed two elephants with a 4.16 shotgun rifle before dehorning them.
Rangers on patrol heard the gunshots and immediately responded. On arrival, it is alleged the two groups exchanged gunfire, resulting in Mutindi being shot on the leg and the rangers presumed he had died.
As the rangers were still waiting for him to be ferried to a mortuary, they went to fetch firewood.
The accused then fled from the scene, but four days later, he returned to the same spot he had been shot and surrendered to the rangers, begging to be taken to hospital.
The three accused were remanded in custody. Sibanda, who is facing allegations of possessing firearms, will appear on July 14, while Sankarwe and Mutindi will be back in court three days later.