CIO agents stop anti-poaching op

Central Intelligence Organisation operatives allegedly involved in wildlife poaching recently stopped a police operation to flush out poachers and seize firearms used to kill animals in game reserves, according to inside sources.

CIO agents stationed at outposts in areas covering wildlife sanctuaries ordered the Zimbabwe Republic Police border control unit not to clamp down on poachers, said the sources. Areas affected include Kariba, Matusadonha and other parts of the country’s northern border.

“They are afraid that curbing poaching activities and seizing firearms used by poachers will plug the source of their ill-gotten wealth. It is common knowledge now that the CIO operatives are making huge amounts of money by protecting the poachers, who give them kickbacks. They have built strong links with the poachers and some officers in National Parks and Wildlife,” said one source.

Top cops angry

The move to stop the sting operation by the minerals and border control unit has reportedly angered senior police commanders who, according to a police insider, have written a situation report to the ZRP general headquarters in Harare.

It is not yet clear whether any action has been taken following the report, which is said to detail past acts by the CIO to frustrate police operations in numerous wildlife zones.

“The police are not happy with the CIO interference and feel that they must be allowed to operate independently. They are, however, fearful of the intelligence operatives and mostly choose to be cautious rather than engaging in confrontation,” said another source.

The sources said the CIO agents received 10 percent of the proceeds from poaching through middlemen who are well-known in wildlife areas.

Some of the middlemen, they added, were South African nationals who are the main buyers of the loot, particularly ivory.

Wealthy overnight

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba could not be reached for comment, but a ZRP insider said the border control unit was involved in several operations to stop poaching. “But it seems some of the police details are benefiting from the poachers with whom they have built contact. It is common knowledge that many police officers from the unit have amassed a lot of wealth overnight by dining with the poachers,” he remarked.

In order to curb corruption in the border control unit, officers were regularly transferred back to the main base at Chikurubi in Harare or moved to other departments, he added.

Recently, a wildlife conservationist, Rory Young, was forced to flee the country by alleged CIO operatives who threatened him for his involvement in anti-poaching training. He has relocated to an undisclosed European country.

Young told The Zimbabwean that his problems started when the government gave him the authority to train police details and scouts in the Nyaminyami area – but the CIO agents in Kariba did not like the idea.

Threat of arrest

“On my way to do further training of Zimbabwe Republic Police and scouts in the Nyaminyami area I received a message from a third party to report to the Office of the President in Kariba. After a full and long interrogation I was told that I was not allowed to train anyone and if I did I would be arrested,” said Rory.

Young said he informed them that he had been given authority by the ZRP General Headquarters and had been granted a two year residence permit to carry out the training, but the operatives would not listen to him.

“I was told to shut up (and they said) that they were above the police and that even if I had done nothing wrong they would find a reason to arrest me and throw away the key unless I stayed away from the area and did no training in Zimbabwe,” said Young.

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