Godfrey Marawanyika/Ndamu Sandu
A SENIOR National Parks game ranger has been implicated in a bribery case involving $55 million to allow a South African firm to conduct illegal hunting.
Documents in the possession of the Zimbabwe Independent show that Thomas Chimedza was paid $55 million by Out of Africa, a South African-registered firm, which wanted to conduct hunts in Matetsi Unit 1, Gwayi and Hwange area.
National Parks authorities have investigated the case and concluded that Chimedza was bribed to allow the illegal hunting. Chimedza, however, denies the charge.
The documents reveal that on May 13, principal warden for investigations and security, Leonard Nhidza, wrote a report to the acting director-general informing him of the findings of investigations.
“In view of the investigations currently under way in relation to the bribery allegations against senior ranger Chimedza, in Matetsi, it has been established that the officer seriously compromised himself by accepting money from Out of Africa,” Nhidza wrote.
“The investigations have secured documentary evidence to the effect that Chimedza received money in cheque form and cash from Out of Africa.”
The report said that as a result of the bribes, Chimedza allegedly allowed the South African firm to use electronic lion calls at night, spotlights and trophy laundering.
“Through trophy laundering, the South Africans were allowed to hunt on Matetsi Unit 1 but the hunting returns would reflect as if the animals were hunted on some other private properties,” Nhidza said. “This would prejudice the Parks Authority of trophy fees and other related charges.”
But Chimedza has denied any wrongdoing, saying the payments were made for hunting activities he conducted for the Safari company.
Meanwhile, the chief warden of the National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Lovemore Mungwashu, has stepped down after 23 years of service due to alleged interference in day-to-day running of his department by the chairman, Buzwani Mothobi.
“Things came to a head a fortnight ago when the chairman dressed him down in front of juniors during a meeting,” officials said.
But Mothobi said that the allegations against him were unfounded.
“The only thing I can say on those allegations is that they are a load of rubbish, that is the best I can say about them,” he said.