IN a move likely to appal conservationists the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority have reportedly struck a deal that has resulted in the authority slaughtering elephants to feed soldiers at army barracks across the country.
Sources in the army told the Zimbabwe Independent that there were acute food shortages in the barracks and the supply of elephant meat was a big relief.
Parks Authority director-general Morris Mutsambiwa yesterday said there was no such a deal with the army. Â
However, military sources insisted the existence of the pact and disclosed that shortages of food rations in the barracks started early last year after the Ministry of Defence exhausted its budgetary allocation due to the harsh economic environment.
Secretary for Defence Trust Maphosa last year admitted before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs that the government was fortunate that none of the soldiers had so far dared to take it to court for failing to comply with the statutes on food requirements.
â€œFor the better part of last year army canteens have been preparing the staple sadza only and soldiers have been bringing their own relish,â€ one of the military sources said. â€œAlthough the state has a statutory obligation to provide soldiers stipulated amounts of kilojoules and calories per every meal, the government has taken advantage of their ignorance and docility to renege on its responsibility.â€
The sources said most barracks started taking delivery of the elephant meat last week.
â€œPeople started eating the meat of elephants last week,â€ said a female soldier from 2 Brigade in Cranborne.
In a written response to questions from the Independent, Parks spokesperson Olivia Mufute said: â€œDr Morris Mutsambiwa said there is no such agreement that exists between the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Zimbabwe National Army.â€
Army director for public relations Simon Tsatsi professed ignorance of the matter before requesting written questions.
â€œI am sorry I am not aware of that, please put your questions in writing and fax them to our offices,â€ Tsatsi said.
The government is desperate to reduce the population of elephants in the country which it claims has far exceeded the carrying capacity of its national parks.
Pressure from animal rights groups has, however, prevented it from wholesale killing of the animals while it cannot afford the other control options that include translocation to countries with smaller populations and contraception.
While control and management of the animals is giving the Zimbabwe government serious headaches, in other parts of the world they have become an endangered species which has to be protected under the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.
BY BERNARD MPOFU