Zimbabwe’s National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority says they have given the police relevant documents linking former First Lady Grace Mugabe to the poaching of protected animals in the country.
Parks spokesperson, Tinashe Farawo, told VOA Studio 7 that the police would use the documents to investigate allegations that Mrs. Mugabe intended to ship wildlife material to the Middle East, America and China.
“We have provided the police with information with some of the documents which the office of the president then was requesting for the shipment of alleged gifts to countries like China and the United Arab Emirates and also the United States of America … I think the matter is under investigation.”
Asked how the so-called gifts were linked to Mrs. Mugabe, Farawo said efforts were once made for the former first lady to discuss the shipment with top officials of the Parks Department, which blocked it.
“… One particular Sunday, I’m sure it was on the 29th of October last year when a request was made from the office of the president to ensure that those things are shipped out of the country but when the director general refused to sign (shipment papers), he was asked by one of the directors, I’m not sure of the name … The director asked the director general that ‘do you want the first lady to phone you directly so that you can process that shipment.
“… It was after the director general had expressed reservations on what was happening because he wanted to verify the products and the papers which he was supposed to sign.”
Farawo dismissed suggestions that the Parks Department is being used as a political tool to fight against former president Robert Mugabe and his wife.
He said the Parks Department’s mandate is to protect wildlife, including lions and elephants, for the benefit of future generations.
“We have nothing to do with politics. Our job and mandate is to ensure that we sustainably utilize our wildlife. Our mandate is to make sure that generations to come can benefit from these animals.”
He said the poaching of elephants has gone down following the removal of Mr. Mugabe from the office of president by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a military intervention, which the former president calls a coup.
“I want to emphasize the fact that if you look at poaching statistics since the coming in of the new leadership when His Excellency President Mnangagwa took over the presidential office in November, poaching statistics have drastically gone down … It is making our work easier and now we can sustainably utilize our wildlife.”
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said investigations on the poaching allegations are in progress.
"Investigations are in their infancy ... We have received a report (from parks authority) and we have initiated investigations. It's a long process and might take a long time."
Some critics say Mrs. Mugabe, who together with her husband are linked to the National Patriotic Front, is being allegedly victimized by Mnangagwa’s government for supporting the opposition ahead of the forthcoming crucial general elections.
National Patriotic Front leader Retired Brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri said, “These allegations have just risen soon after the coup and I think it’s political. It those things were happening why were they not brought up at the time (when Mugabe was in power).”
Last December, Zimbabwe's parks agency seized 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of ivory worth $500,000 destined for Malaysia and no one was arrested over the shipment.
Poaching is rife in Zimbabwe's national parks, which teem with elephants and other big game.
The agency says close to 900 elephants have been poached since 2013. The southern African country is estimated to have more than 84,000 elephants.