US$3m rhino horns missing at ZimParks

Tinashe Farawo
Fifty-six rhino horns worth US$3 million vanished from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority stores in Harare, a board of inquiry has found.

The board of inquiry wants former ZimParks Director-General Mr Edson Chidziya to account for the loss, and also be investigated by the police for allegedly violating tender regulations. Mr Chidziya was fired for maladministration and abuse of office. The rhino horn trade is prohibited under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species, but black markets – especially in Asia – offer lucrative returns.

Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri confirmed receiving the board’s report.

ZimParks board chair Mr Tichafa Mundangepfupfu told The Sunday Mail: “The issue of missing rhino horns is before the ZRP’s department of Economic Crimes unit and we are expecting to go to court soon. “On the issue of maladministration, we brought (Mr Chidziya) before a disciplinary hearing and he was found guilty; that’s why he was dismissed. In fact, we are in the process of hunting for a new director-general.”

However, when asked to comment on the stage of investigations, Police national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

The board’s report reads, “At criminal level, the director-general should be charged with C/S 184 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) ‘Criminal abuse of duty as public officer’. (He) exhibited a high level of negligence in the execution of his duties relevant to the matter at hand in that . . .he failed to put in place security and control measures to prevent pilferage of rhino horns.”

According to the report, ZimParks had 4 303 rhino horns at its headquarters in 2011, some of which were deposited around 1989. The report says an internal audit in 2014 showed that one rhino horn was missing and the matter was reported to police on Mr Chidziya’s instruction. But another audit in 2015 established that 56 rhino horns were missing, and the board queried how the first audit had failed to detect the loss of the other 55 horns and why Mr Chidziya did not report the matter to police.

“When the initial one rhino horn was discovered to be missing, a prompt report was made to the police at the behest of the director-general. However, when a similar and more serious case of the 56 missing rhino horns was brought to his attention, he did not report it to police since July 2015 to date. On being questioned by the board of inquiry, the director-general said that he wanted to get a second opinion to authenticate the quantities before making a report. It was the responsibility of Edson Chidziya to ensure that the matter was reported to the police.

“The authority did not make an internal investigation in this matter with a view of establishing the perpetrator and or circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the horns.”

The board says Mr Chidziya did not institute sound inventory and security measures in keeping with standard procedures.

Earlier in 2012, senior parks officer Padgewell Mazoyo – who was in charge of the stores – fell ill and was temporarily replaced by Mr Munyaradzi Nhira. “In the intervening period and contrary to the standing operating procedures, Munyaradzi Nhira did not invite security personnel to witness his entrance into and exit from the ivory and rhino horn stores,” reads the report.

“. . .That Munyaradzi Nhira had unlimited and unprocedural access into the ivory and rhino horn stores until April 2014 was discovered upon the return of Padgewell Mazoyo who had been on sick leave from December 2012, indicates a serious gap in monitoring and control systems. Upon assumption of office in the capacity of acting director-general on 1 September 2012 before he was appointed on a substantive basis on 1 May 2013, Edson Chidziya did not draw or cause to be drawn an inventory of rhino horn stocks and neither did he cause routine audits to be done.”

The baord also established that in 2015, Mr Chidziya – outside of tender procedures – authorised purchase of ZimParks uniforms worth US$365 185 and also got a US$127 398 vehicle for himself.

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