Zanu-PF poaching links exposed

Dawie Groenewald, the alleged rhino-poaching kingpin, has been linked to powerful Zanu-PF members in Zimbabwe, including Kembo Mohadi, the joint home affairs minister, and Jocelyn Chiwenga, the wife of army chief Constantine Chiwenga.

Groenewald, of Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris, was arrested with his wife, Sariette Groenewald, and a contracted hunter, Tielman Erasmus, in Limpopo last month in connection with poaching. Groenewald was released on R1-million bail and his wife on bail of R100 000.

Also among those held in police raids were two vets from the Modimolle area, Karel Toet and Manie du Plessis, and Toet’s wife, Mariza.

Groenewald, a former police officer, is well known among Zimbabwe’s ranchers. According to Johnny Rodrigues, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF), Groenewald’s association with Zanu-PF’s top brass in running illegal hunting activities in Zimbabwe could open a can of worms.

“Groenewald’s arrest is likely to expose a lot of high-powered people in Zanu-PF who are involved in poaching activities. The case is a time bomb waiting to explode,” he said.

“These Zimbabweans are exporting resources for huge profits when they haven’t put a cent into the safari business. It shows the dearth of law and order in the country.”

In 2003 Groenewald operated Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris in Zimbabwe before it was banned in September 2005 by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Safari industry watchdogs raised concerns that Out of Africa was involved in poaching and hunted on the farms of evicted white farmers in cahoots with war vets and Zanu-PF officials. Out of Africa denied the charges levelled against it.

Groenewald did not want to comment citing sub judice.

Rodrigues highlighted the allegedly illegal hunting operations of the unlicensed Zhove conservancy unit near Beitbridge. Farm owners in the area said that the unit, comprising state security personnel, war veterans and Zanu-PF activists, was a prime target of operators such as Groenewald. The farmers said that the unit “regularly receives hunting quotas from the department of national parks and wildlife”.

According to the ZCTF, Zhove invaded five farms in Beitbridge this year. Zanu-PF’s control of wildlife-rich areas had enabled it to use poached animals to feed soldiers and crowds at political rallies. Wildlife sources said that three elephants and three buffaloes were killed this week to provide meat for supporters at a Zanu-PF rally in Gokwe to open the Women’s Development Bank.

Rodrigues said Zhove also sold animal skins to South African poachers, allegedly including Johannes Roos, who has been linked to a shady alliance, dubbed the “Musina Mafia” by locals.

Well-placed sources in Musina confirmed that Roos and Groenewald were “close associates”.

In July Beeld newspaper exposed Roos as part of the “Musina Mafia” and implicated him in arms smuggling across the Zimbabwean border.

Roos’s whereabouts are currently unknown, he is said by sources close to the poaching investigation to be in hiding.

An exiled Zimbabwe radio station, SW Radio Africa, has reported that Mohadi is associated with South African-based poachers and facilitated Groenewald’s release in Zimbabwe after he was arrested for rhino poaching in the Bubi area.

It is also suspected that Groenewald was released after spending two nights in a Beitbridge prison in August last year as a result of Mohadi’s intervention.

Attempts to contact Mohadi for comment were unsuccessful.

Zimbabwean wildlife sources said that, since 2000, when farm invasions began, Zanu-PF loyalists have extended their control over the country’s lucrative safari business, grabbing all the best reserves. Jocelyn Chiwenga reportedly controls all concessions in the Victoria Falls area and deals with wealthy Americans.

The farmers said that Groenewald was still very active in Zimbabwe.

“Although they [Out of Africa] were banned from operating in the country, it is known within safari industry circles that they have been using an operation called Africa Dream Safaris to hunt in Zimbabwe,” Rodrigues said.

Attempts to get a comment from Africa Dream Safaris were unsuccessful.

Ray Ndlovu

Ray Ndlovu

Ray Ndlovu has been a correspondent for the Mail & Guardian in Zimbabwe since 2009. His areas of interest include politics and business. With a BSc honours degree in journalism and media studies, Ray aspires to become a media mogul.  
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