By Matabeleland North Correspondent
EX-VICTORIA Falls Mayor, Zanu PF’s Sifiso Mpofu and two alleged accomplices were, Saturday remanded in custody over a charge of illegal possession of raw ivory.
Mpofu (42), a relative of former Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu, was arrested Thursday night together with Milton Sibindi (47) and Phathiso Sibanda (49).
Victoria Falls magistrate Rangarirai Gakanje remanded the three in custody to March 22.
She did not formally ask them to plead to a charge of violating Section 82(1) of the Parks and Wildlife General Regulations Statutory Instrument 362/1990, as read with section 128(b) of the Parks and Wildlife Act, which criminalises unlawful possession of raw ivory.
Police and rangers from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) received a tip-off from an informer and according to prosecutor Onias Nyathi a trap was set leading to the arrests.
“On 7 March and at House Number 5449 Mkhosana, a team comprising police officers from Victoria Falls and rangers from Zimparks were on an anti-poaching patrol when they observed a white Toyota Harrier parked in front of a partially open gate at the first accused (Mpofu’s) house,” said Nyathi.
Magistrate Gakanje heard that the driver of the vehicle drove off at high speed upon seeing the police while Mpofu, Sibindi and Sibanda who at that time were walking from the house going towards the gate carrying three tusks each, also attempted to flee.
“Upon seeing the police, they dropped the ivory and attempted to flee. One of the police officers who was armed with a weapon fired a warning shot in the air to stop the trio from fleeing. The team managed to arrest the three within the yard,” added the prosecutor.
Eleven elephant tusks were recovered. The actual weight value of the ivory was not provided with authorities indicating investigations are ongoing. However Zimparks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said the tusks weighed 120kgs.
Mpofu served as mayor up to last July when he lost an opposition MDC Alliance candidate.
The three who are being represented by Thulani Nkala of Dube and Nkala legal practitioners.
The arrest follows a similar case involving seven Chinese nationals who were arrested on 23 December for possessing rhino horn pieces weighing more than 20kgs and valued at close to US$1 million.
They were charged with illegal possession of ivory and money laundering and are still in custody as the trial is underway in Hwange.
Poaching has become rampant with foreigners at the heart of various syndicates ravaging Zimbabwe’s wildlife sector.