Sunday, May 15, 2011

Zimbabwe poaching report Part Two

The OAAS was not the only South African outfit involved in plundering Zimbabwe's rhino heritage. As Daily News continued probing the depths of the poaching crisis that has plagued the Gwayi Valley Conservancy, Hwange National Park and the Matetsi Safari areas since 2000, it emerged that the chaos created by Zanu PF's farm invasions turned vast areas of previously safe animal sanctuaries into vast wastelands of plunder where the hunting season never ended. Among them were foreigners and locals ranging from top government and church ministers to the ordinary rogue national parks ranger.

The Gwayi Conservancy Hunting Report of 2003 details the poaching activities of South African brothers Piet and Hendrik Uys, listed as directors of Northern Weapons which also trades in Afrikaans as 'Noordlike Wapens' out of Louis Trichadt in the Northern Province. They are reported to have conducted extensive illegal hunts in the Gwayi Conservancy throughout 2003.

The Uys brothers are alleged to be the owners of three Toyota Landcruiser trucks with registration numbers NWZ 918 GP, FBD 185 N AND DPK 173 N: "These characters were very active through out the year within the Gwayi Valley Conservancy , mainly concentrating on Gwayi Ranch , Hankano Ranch , Lot 1 of Dete Valley Railway Farms 35 & 36 and Chimwara Ranch.They were hunting indiscrimantly, shooting young animals, females etc."

"In the course of the year, Gwayi Valley Conservancy members also questioned illegal hunters on their farms. The names of those South African hunters include Andre De Jaager who was caught poaching while driving a blue Landrover Vehicle registration number DMT 498 GP and one R M Saunders, believed to be of Jack Rand, Alberton in Johannesburg who claimed to have been brought into the country by Elephant Eye Safaris. The above were seen in the company of three American hunters and De Jaager shot and wounded a buffalo on Sotani Ranch. At that time De Jaager was staying at the Lodge on Chamankanu Ranch. He was also seen hunting on Lugo Ranch (owned by Vice-President John Nkomo) and Skukungwa farms. He had already been arrested twice for hunting illegally on Skukungwa Ranch," reads part of the report.

South African national Mark Sparrow of Fair Chase Safaris in Polokwane, old Zimbabwean vehicle registration number 587 150F, was also reported to have conducted extensive illegal hunts. "Sparrow has been hunting on Hankano Ranch and Lot 1 of Dete Valley. He has already made offers to property owners from Masuna. This desire to purchase land is not illegal, but is an indication of his presence in the area. He is involved with the Uys brothers of Northern Weapons, Louis Trichadt," the report says.

It also sheds light on the activities of Henry F. Neil, describing him as a 'controversial Cape Town clergyman' and 'a story worth following.' "Henry. F. Nel is a minister in the Rock of Africa Christian mission in Cape Town. He apparently would not allow any blacks into his church there, but is quite happy to form illicit hunting liaisons with black Zimbabweans. He is apparently assisting a school in the Gwaai area to justify his position there. He has been working out of Kalambeza Lodge which is situated on Umkombo Ranch within the Gwayi Valley Conservancy."

"Further, this character is known to the Gwayi Valley Conservancy for the destruction and decimation of the natural resources and wildlife on two certain pieces of land known as Carl Lisa and Bindonvale which he was leasing from a German national. He was the first person in the Gwayi Valley Conservancy to be ordered to stop all activities , including hunting operations ,chopping of trees and general destruction of fauna and flora on his land."

French national Jerome Sefridi, the director of Indaba Safaris of Number 10 Anthony Potts Road, Fortunes Gate in Bulawayo is also listed as having brought dozens of hunters from France to hunt illegally in the Gwayi Conservancy between 2002 and 2003. "Sefridi is a French national resident in Zimbabwe. He has been selling hunts to the French hunting community.He hunted extensively within the Gwayi Valley Conservancy, concentrating his illegal activities to Lot 1 , 2 , 3A of Dete Valley, Goodluck Ranch, Sikumi Estates, Chimwara Ranch, Gwayi Ranch and Hankano Ranches. He drives and hunts in a green Mitsubishi jeep registration number 797-699 F."

Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu is also reported to have played a key role in aiding and abetting the poaching crisis that still dogs the Gwayi Valley Conservancy area. The report says his acquisition of Lots 40 and 41 of the Hwange Estate, which includes an Intensive Conservation Area specially reserved for the safe breeding of the prestigious Presidential Herd of elephants around September 2003 opened it up to poaching syndicates.

It describes the plunder as follows: "Lot 41 and Stand Land (Lot 40) have been taken over by Obert Mpofu (then Governor for Matabeleland North). He has managed to acquire hunting permits from National Parks, authorizing him to conduct hunting safaris in these areas which are photographic areas only. Although the National Parks have put a ban on hunting in this area, hunting vehicles are still operating here."

A safari company linked to Thandiwe Nkomo, the daughter of the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo is reported to have carried out illegal hunts on Railway Farm 31 ,Railway Farm 37 and Lot 1 of Dete Valley Farm from October 2003 and was still operating in the same areas by the end of the first quarter of 2004. Lalapanzi Safaris, which is owned by one Brigadier Ben Matiwaza and his relative Zeph Matiwaza (who owned Zambezi Milling Company at the time) also employed professional hunters Jed Moyo and Gary Hopkins to conduct illegal hunts in the Gwayi Valley Conservacy.

"This company was operating illegally within the Gwayi Valley Conservancy, concentrating its operations on Antionette Ranch , Railway Farm 35 and 31 ,Goodluck Ranch and Chimwara Ranch."

Investigations also linked hunter Hopkins to the illegal activities of Dingwall Safaris, a company owned by American national Don Bouwer. Investigations by Daily News have also revealed that Moyo is the husband of Sunny Moyo, the ex-warden at Hwange National Park's Main Camp who was in 2003 linked to a scam in which vast acres of indigenous forests were illegally cut and carted out of the southern side of Hwange National Park although logging is not allowed anywhere inside the park.

Investigations also revealed that Ivory Safaris, also trading as Ivory Lodge, which is situated in the Sikumi Forest zone of the Hwange National Park employed a Zimbabwean professional hunter guide to help its foreign clients in conducting illegal hunts in and around the Sikumi Forest area. The owners are British nationals.

"In 2003, this company employed Bagman Chauke, P.H.Licence No: 6092 B as a professional guide or camp manager who was supposed to take photographic clients on safari drives from the lodge. He allowed foreign hunters to stay and hunt illegally out of this lodge under his guidance."

In mid-2003, poaching investigators in the Gwayi Valley area witnessed an increase in the number of safari companies using forged hunting permits and inflating the number of animals allocated in legal quotas. One such company was Dream Merchant Safaris, which the 2003 hunting report describes as follows:

"This company was using Zengela's Safaris(Chamankanu Farm) operator’s license (number 0008) without the farm owner’s permission. On their pre-hunts, they have put the name Ugere/bo (Pvt) Ltd. National Parks signed a blank pre-hunt form for their activities and on another quota application the company Dream Merchant Safaris, Box 56 Dete, was used, but gave no client information and it does not state what farm the hunt was to take place on. They also has a pre-hunt form for a hippo."

Daily News failed to establish the identity of one Evans Mukanza, who was overhead by poaching investigators telling foreign hunters that he can supply live buffaloes and elephants from Sinamatela Camp, which is deep inside he Hwange National Park.

Poaching detectives also observed the illegal hunting activities of former and serving national parks staffers Mark Rusell, who was by then the senior ranger at Sinamatela Camp, former parks employees Headman Sibanda, Bagman Chauke and ex-parks pilot Albert Paradzai. The surveillance log also observes that Rusell was on several occassions seen driving a National Parks vehicle loaded with fuel drums from his base in Sinamatela into Goodluck Farm where poaching was at its height. It also observes that he spent most of August 2003 entertaining South African hunters and helping them conduct illegal hunts.

The report also linked the upsurge in poaching through the use of snares in the Gwayi Valley to the Zanu PF-aligned National Youth militias who were running an intensive training programme at Kamativi Mine near Hwange.

"On August 3, 2003, 18 impala carcasses were seen on Sikumi Estate. Apparently, half were for sale and half were for the youth militia camp in Kamativi. Around the same time, 17 buffalo and 2 sable were found in a snare line. Two eland cows and a kudu were snared two days after the departure of the evicted farm owner at Sotani Ranch. Due to the lack of water in the area, it has become common practice to put snare lines around the few remaining water holes. 600 snares were removed from one water hole in one day."

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