By TZ Business News and Agencies.
Two separate investigations have led into partial revelation of identity in the Tanzania ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), and the South African Government of people suspected to be involved in the illicit ivory trade which fuels elephants and rhino poaching in the two countries.
A government investigation in Tanzania has identified the son of a member of parliament as a culprit while an independent media investigation in South Africa has alleged the Minister in charge of State Security may be linked to the ivory trade.
The Chinese news agency, has reported from Mbeya in the Tanzania southern highlands nine poachers appeared in court on Friday, November 11, 2016 charged with killing 86 elephants and five buffaloes. State attorneys told the regional court that the suspects killed the animals between August 2006 and September 2014 in Mbeya, Iringa, Tanga and Morogoro regions.
The attorneys said most of the suspects were related to a heavyweight politician from the country’s ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), adding that the killed elephants and buffaloes were valued at 1 million U.S. dollars, Xinhua has reported.
The state attorneys said one of the suspects, identified as son of a Member of Parliament on the ticket of the ruling party, was two weeks ago found guilty of illegal possession of government trophies.
The case in Mbeya comes against a backdrop of a rising government commitment in Tanzania to crackdown on poaching. On October 29, President John Pombe Magufuli directed Tanzanian security forces to hunt down and arrest poachers and all criminals financing the poaching of elephants without being afraid of their age groups, their positional titles or the religius affiliation.
The President made the order during his visit to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, where he saw 50 elephant tusks that were seized from poachers. He said the taskforce given the duty to fight the menace of poaching in the country has his full support in the fight against elephant poaching.
According to a 2015 census, the elephant population in Tanzania shrank from 110,000 in 2009 to around 43,000 in 2014, while rhinos are said to be on the verge of extinction.
In South Africa, the International TV station Al Jazeera says its Investigative Unit has uncovered evidence of high-level political connections to rhino poaching in Africa. The investigation raises serious questions about the involvement of a South African government minister and members of a Chinese presidential delegation in the illegal rhino horn trade.
Of the just 25,000 remaining African rhino, the biggest population is in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, where at least two rhino are killed for their horns by poachers every night.
The selling of products from endangered species is banned worldwide, but high demand in China and Vietnam – where the horn is considered a sign of status and wealth – has kept the trade alive.
In Pretoria, South Africa, Al Jazeera secretly filmed a conversation with the manager of a Chinese restaurant who owns a collection of rhino horn bracelets and ivory chopsticks.
The restaurant manager told Al Jazeera that when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited South Africa last December a delegation accompanying him asked to be taken shopping for illegal souvenirs to smuggle home.
“They loved those ivory accessories,” he said. “Also rhino horn, but they didn’t buy much. They bought ivory mostly.”The illegal spending spree was confirmed by a second source.
The Chinese government has pledged greater action on wildlife crime and did not respond to requests for an interview regarding our investigation.
In South Africa, one rhino horn trafficker bragged to Al Jazeera about his close connections to Minister of State Security David Mahlobo, who runs the country’s intelligence services.
“He came to my massage parlor every week or at least twice a month,” said the trafficker. “I know him very well.”Mahlobo has denied any relationship with the businessman.