Ministers and South African Hunters Implicated in Poaching in Zimbabwe

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  1. AfricaHunting.com

    AfricaHunting.com FOUNDER AH Ambassador

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    Ministers and South African Hunters Implicated in Poaching in Zimbabwe
    published November 2009

    HWANGE - Massive poaching is taking place inside the Hwange National Park, involving a network of high-ranking Wildlife and National Parks officials in cahoots with a few named local and foreign safari operators.

    “Some powerful government minister has simply taken over the National Park as his own safari area and we are powerless to stop it,” said a National Parks officer who cannot be named for reasons of personal security.

    The Zimbabwean has been given detailed information in the form of documents which show that this has been happening intensively over the past 18 months.

    It is extremely difficult to prove that the hunts are illegal, as the Parks officers are simply instructed by high-ranking government officials to give out hunting concessions in a clandestine manner.

    Our investigations have revealed that illegal hunters set up base at the Pandamatenga Rest Camp in Botswana. From there they cross the Zimbabwean boarder each morning for their hunts.

    The band that operates from Pandamatenga is involved in elephant and buffalo hunting. Butch Manasse, a seasoned South African hunter is mentioned in the documents as playing a leading role.

    An official from an organisation called Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe sought an audience with George Pangeti, the chairman of the Parks Authority in September, to discuss the issue. Pangeti promised to look into it, but up to the time of going to press nothing had been done.

    The Zimbabwean is in possession of a radio communication transcript between two Safari operators. The names of Vitalis Chadenga, the Parks Conservation Director General, and a South African safari operator called Barry Van Heerden, feature in their conversation.

    Investigations show that the poaching syndicate has tentacles at all levels – including the local police.

    Last month a Zimbabwean hunter named Mitch Bunce caught one Wilfred Belani, license number 23 when he (Belani) had shot a cow elephant in the Sikumi Forest. Belani was taken to Tshotsholo police station but no formal charge was laid.

    A week later the same Belani was taken to Dete Police Station after he shot and wounded a bull elephant using a bow and arrow. During the act he was with a South African called Donovan Harris from Lewis Harris Safaris. They failed to kill the animal and it went back into the bush wounded.

    At the police station the hunters claimed they had a license to operate in the area. To date the case has still not been investigated.

    Baleni is reported to have received US$2000 from Harris for his role in the hunt. The elephant was shot in the forest near the Victoria Falls-Bulawayo railway line at Farm 35’s boundary.

    The names of Ministers Obert Mpofu, Webster Shamu and Emerson Mnangagwa consistently appear whenever there is a reported case. The accused are then allowed by the police to go scot-free. Mpofu’s brother-in-law Ruben Mkhandla is believed to have been given a piece of land between Sikumi and Sables Lodges under Mugabe’s corrupt and violent land “reform” programme.

    In addition, the names of certain hunters said to be working with the department of parks and the politicians continue to crop up. They include Alan and Brian van Heerden, Lawrence Botha, Wayne Jardine, Guy Whittal and Wilfred Belani.

    A recent incident in the Robins Camp area of the park saw five Romanians, a Parks warden and a professional hunter arrested by a parks officer for illegally hunting elephants. Their vehicle, rifles and equipment were impounded, and charges laid against them. However, before going to court, they were released and given back all their equipment. High ranking sources in the police say that they were released on orders from Francis Nhema, the Minister of Environment and Tourism.
     
  2. Frederik

    Frederik AH Enthusiast

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    Bad news for Zim's wildlife if they start hunting in the national parks.
     
  3. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    I know some of these people, that are called...in the poaching case....it does not surprise me at all. And in a lot of ways, I don't like the hunters that went on the hunt....because they should know better!!! Slaughtering game because you get to hunt cheaply...doesn't make it right at all.

    PAC and management hunt rules need to be clearer!!! I have always said that people hunting should be issued a license before hand...just like the US and you should have to carry it while you are hunting. A lot of the rules in Africa are as clear as mud....and unless you book with a honest outfitter...crap like this happens.

    The people above need prison time...some need the keys thrown away. This stuff needs to stop!
     
  4. JamieD

    JamieD AH Veteran

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    I see that this article was published in Nov. 09. Is this still going on?

    We are due to hunt near Hwange in Aug. as well as spend some time taking photos in the park. I work with animals on a daily basis being near dangerous animals doesn't worry me. Getting in the middle of poachers and the law, that concerns me.
     
  5. Conservator

    Conservator New Member

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    A recent post has again brought to light the disgusting and totally unethical practise of hunting in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, and even though it was in 2009, hunting in any National Park anywhere means that the park in question could lose its National Park status. Both clients and operators, who engage in this despicable highly unethical behaviour, should be blacklisted from every organisation they belong to, and the PHs involved stripped of their licenses for life. It is totally unacceptable for those involved to use lame excuses such as the neighbouring tribes people need ‘protein’, or that the animals need to be culled, or worst, trying to say the entire National Parks department in question is cash strapped. It is only bad governance, corruption, and gross fiscal mismanagement that cause that to happen. Hwange National Park has always been upheld as an icon of leading African National Parks, it was created by extremely dedicated conservationists, and way back in September 1928 the first game warden of the yet to be proclaimed Hwange National Park (in those Rhodesian colonial days it still had game reserve status and was called Wankie Game Reserve) arrived there, he was twenty-two year old Ted Davison. In 1950 the sanctuary evolved to what became known as Wankie National Park – Ted Davison remained at the helm for 34 years, until just prior to pensioning off he was moved to the then Salisbury (now Harare) HQ. Wankie National Park was once ranked as one of the finest in the world, sadly Hwange National Park (as it is now known) could still be up there on the top rung of global National Parks – however, gross corruption and greed, with little thought for the welfare of the wildlife within haven’t allowed it to remain there. Due to the lack of tourism because of Zimbabwe’s political situation, photographic lodges around the Park are struggling to exist, and this hasn’t been helped any by the parasitic scumbags who started offering commercial sport hunting inside the national park. Enough international conservationist pressure and international exposure was brought to bear in 2009 and it stopped. However earlier this year cow elephant hunts were once more being covertly advertised but seemingly pressure from dedicated individuals inside Zimbabwe has again hopefully stopped it – but for how long? Aldo Leopold in his Sand County Almanac wrote, and I quote “ There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot” – anyone who considers themselves a person with moral ethics and integrity when it comes to sport hunting, won’t allow themselves to be enticed into hunting in a proclaimed National Park, no matter what the marketing hype – those who do hunt in a National Park clearly belong in the former category of Leopold’s quote, they obviously ‘can live without wild things’, quite simply because they don’t give a damn about the future of wildlife. Or feel anything for those who prefer to hunt wildlife with notebook, camera and binoculars. I write this as a true hunter, not a greenie. The name Wilfred Baleni has also appeared in that 2009 article, and he has no wildlife ethics at all, and has yet to be successfully prosecuted for elephant poaching due to the protection he enjoys from those who he is close to in high office – we call it benefiting through patronage, and he is close to many of those on the US Travel Ban list. If reliable reports from those conservationists on the ground are an indicator – Wilfred Baleni’s PH license is meant to be getting suspended, or is currently suspended. Seemingly however, Wilfred Baleni is still an active player, and if anyone wants to find him, merely contact Interland Safaris who advertise hunting safaris in Zimbabwe’s Gokwe South, Baleni is their front man, and he is sadly once again fronting for South African operators from Limpopo, because ethical Zimbabwean operators irrespective of colour or creed, won’t have anything to do with him, so he’s had to once more trawl for business across the South African border. Interland Safaris advertise that a qualified South African PH will guide the safari (qualified where?) and that a licensed Zimbabwean PH will give a legal front to the safari. Wilfred Baleni is the legal ‘front’ but if his PH license is currently suspended due to wildlife act irregularities, the front he is affording both the client(s) and his Limpopo business colleagues is actually ‘illegal’. Furthermore, Interland Safaris advertises a 2 million acre concession in Gokwe South but they aren’t mentioning that 98% of the 2 million acres are heavily populated with dry land crops and tribal villages. That seems to me to smack of misrepresentation, and with Wilfred Baleni around, the proximity to Chizarira National Park makes one worry that what happened in Hwange National Park could also happen there, if the situation is not closely monitored by those who care about wildlife.
     

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