Court clears Zimparks boss in rhino horns scam

HARARE - Former Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) director-general Edson Chidziya was yesterday acquitted on charges of concealing an audit report that exposed a $3 million rhino horn scam.

Chidziya was represented by Lovemore Madhuku and was cleared after a full trial held before Harare regional magistrate Elijah Makomo.
Zimparks wildlife officer Padgewell Mazoyo, 37, audit manager Gift Kuwora, 51, and Munyaradzi Nhira, 32, an ex-security officer have been embroiled in the same scam and face theft of trust property charges.

Makomo ruled that the evidence presented by prosecution in court was not sufficient to sustain a conviction under the circumstances.

He said the State had failed to prove a prima facie case against Chidziya considering that he was not the only person privileged with the audit report because it was also sent to the Environment ministry permanent secretary, board chairperson Zimparks, chairperson Legal Audit and Risk Committee, director Conservation and Commercial Services and Finance, Administration and Human Resources director.

“The court could not rely on the audit report which covered periods from 1960, 1966, 1980 and clearly shows that the audits were not being done consistently,”Makomo ruled.

“The State’s star witness was not credible considering that he sits on the current board, and, yet the charges relate to the previous board.”

Prosecutor Rudo Chasi alleged that from September 2012 to May 1, 2013 Chidziya acted as the director general of Zimparks and was eventually appointed to the position of accounting officer.

Chidziya’s sole responsibility was ensuring efficient and smooth running of the wildlife authority reporting to the Board.

It was alleged that during his tenure of office Chidziya caused breach of security procedures of game products under his supervision.

Chidziya’s conduct reportedly caused loss of 56 Rhino horns through theft and the offence was discovered after an audit in July 2015.

It was alleged that Chidziya was given the audit report in his capacity as accounting officer but instead of reporting the matter to the police or authorities he deliberately kept the information to himself for more than a year and hindered early detection of the anomaly.

According to the State, Chidziya’s actions were contrary and inconsistent to his duties as a public officer.

As a result Zimparks lost $3 million and nothing was recovered.

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