Former first lady Grace Mugabe has been named in a government report on elephant poaching and smuggling of ivory in a scandal that might have cost the country millions of dollars.
BY STAFF REPORTER
The reports by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks), that have since been handed over to the police for further investigations, place former president Robert Mugabe’s wife at the centre of a syndicate that allegedly exported tonnes of elephant carvings through the black market.
Zimparks public relations manager Tinashe Farawo confirmed the authority produced the reports and that police had taken over the investigations.
“We have provided the police with all information that the first family took permits to transport ivory,” he said.
“The ivory did not come from Parks, so there is strong suspicion that it came from poaching and that is the matter under investigation.”
Farawo said several permits to transport ivory were secured by Mugabe’s office and in most cases; they were obtained when the consignment was already at the airport so that Zimparks could not do reconciliation.
“There are many permits obtained by the director of state residences,” he said.
He said the last such permit was obtained on October 29 on a Sunday and officials from Mugabe’s office had to follow the Zimparks director home so he could sign the papers.
The Zimparks director allegedly demanded to see the consignment before signing but was told it was already at the Robert Mugabe International Airport. He then received a call from State House with an order to sign the permit.
“We could not reconcile what we signed for and what went out,” Farawo said.
He said their suspicion was that the ivory was obtained through poaching as the leakages were not captured in the Zimparks database.
Grace was first linked to the ivory scandal after a Harare man known as Madzingira was allegedly caught at the Robert Mugabe International Airport trying to smuggle ivory worth millions of dollars out of the country.
Madzingira, who was arrested shortly after Mugabe was toppled by the army, is on bail.
Police national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed that they were investigating Grace.
“Yes, we received a report and we have initiated an investigation,” she said last night.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, which was said to be also involved in the investigation, said it had nothing to do with the probe.