You need to take the figures on ivory stocks and value in this piece with a hefty pinch of salt as they are clearly wrong. It is an important piece as it shows a government minister going on the offensive against Grace Mugabe over alleged ivory smuggling.  Likely to be part of a growing campaign to build a case against her that could lead to prosecution.  By building the case on ivory, the government would seek to get maximum international opprobrium for Grace’s alleged crimes and so build a Western-supported case that could end in prosecution.  This would avoid being seen to persecute her solely on political grounds.  use the international groundswell against the ivory trade for clear domestic  political purposes.  The accusations might well be true, by the Minister and Mnangagwa are using the timing of revealing them as a very obvious but potentially potent political weapons. KS


Daily News (Zimbabwe)
March 21, 2018

A state-sanctioned investigation into a massive ivory and rhino horn
trafficking scandal that prejudiced the foreign currency-starved nation of
millions of United States dollars has sucked in former first lady Grace

Environment, Water and Climate minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri
sensationally claimed in an interview with the Daily News yesterday that
Grace would occasionally raid the country’s ivory stockpile kept at the
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks).

The raids, according to Muchinguri-Kashiri, worsened when the Environment
component of the ministry was assigned to former minister, Edgar Mbwembwe,
weeks before the fall of Grace’s husband, Robert Mugabe, who had ruled
Zimbabwe for 37 years.

And when Muchinguri-Kashiri was given back the Environment portfolio by
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who ascended to power late last year through
a military-assisted takeover, she immediately commissioned investigations
into the matter whose preliminary results have sucked in Grace.

That is the period when the stockpile was raided and when I came back, I
was told that she (Grace) would prevail upon ZimParks officials to release
the ivory on the basis that they were the first lady’s donations to unnamed
fellow first ladies in the Far East,” said Muchinguri-Kashiri.

I then commissioned a full investigation into the matter which has since
been concluded and as of now, the report is being compiled, which I would
release on conclusion. In doing so, I was also covering my back because
people would say the ivory disappeared under my charge and I would be held
responsible. You have to expose these things,” she said. “The full report
on the matter is going to be released soon,” she added.

The Environment minister also revealed that a police officer who was
leading investigations into a consignment of 200 kilogrammes of ivory worth
at least $2 million intercepted by security details at the Robert Mugabe
International Airport in December last year, had died mysteriously. The
consignment was destined for the Far East.

?Government is also looking into the case of the investigating officer of
the case who died strangely in Mozambique when he was pursuing the case. We
only know that he went there on personal business (and) he didn’t come back
alive,? she said.

Officials from ZimParks recounted to the Daily News dramatic scenes that
unfolded at the airport when the consignment ? which was destined for the
Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, was intercepted.

The consignment was checked in under the name of one Ray, who reportedly
took to his heels and vanished through the busy airport when he realised
that the smuggling had not succeeded.

Subsequently, sources said, investigations into the bid to smuggle the
ivory had to be halted a few days later after it became clear that a
powerful force was involved. But later, the investigations resumed and a
report on that is now with Muchinguri-Kashiri.

We only know now that the consignment had been checked in by a middle-aged
man called Ray, of whom we don’t have any further details at the moment,
but the net is closing in,” said ZimParks director-general Fulton Mangwanya.

Zimbabwe sits on 96 000 tonnes of ivory valued at approximately $10 billion. [KS: This figure is clearly wrong – it is more likely 96,000kg (about 96 tonnes), worth around $10 million.]

Illegal wildlife trafficking in Zimbabwe has become a multi-million dollar
industry involving various animals and their body parts sold as souvenirs,
trophies, and for ?medical? use every year.

Leading destinations for such products, notably China and America, have
banned their formal trade, but illegal and parallel traffic has ballooned.

In the wake of irregular attempts at wildlife conservation in China, the
Chinese are now turning their acquisitive eyes to Zimbabwe.

Since the millennium, the presence of China in Africa has grown
exponentially every year. The demand for ivory, rhino horns, lion bones and
hippo’s teeth is insatiable.

But this is having a detrimental effect on the conservation efforts as
various wildlife species are at risk of extinction.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, if rhino poaching increases at a
steady rate, African rhinos will be extinct within a decade. Poachers
receive up to $60 000 per kilogramme.

Representing an estimated $20 billion of the illegal international trade
estimated at $1,3 trillion per annum, wildlife trafficking is the fourth
largest income earning transnational organised crime after drugs, arms and
human trafficking.

This news service is provided by Save the Elephants.