POLICE have arrested former Victoria Falls mayor Sifiso Mpofu and two accomplices for alleged illegal possession of elephant tusks weighing 120kg.
The Chronicle was told that there was an exchange of gunfire during the dramatic arrest on Thursday night at Mpofu’s house.
Neighbours said they heard gunshots and feared there could have been casualties. It could not be established whether the trio fired at the police or tried to resist arrest. They are expected to appear in court this morning.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrest of Mpofu (42) Milton Sibindi (47) and Phathiso Sibanda (49).
The trio was arrested after an anti-poaching team comprising police Criminal Investigation Department and Support Unit and rangers from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority reacted to a tip-off from an informer.
“Yes, I can confirm the arrest but details of the case will be availed in due course,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
Mpofu of 5449 Mkhosana, Sibindi who resides at number 5889 and Sibanda of 6244 in the same suburb are expected to be charged with illegal possession of raw elephant ivory.
“On Thursday evening, information was received that the trio was in possession of raw ivory. The anti-poaching team reacted to the tip-off and proceeded to Mkhosana turn-off to meet the informer who led the team to Mpofu’s house in Mkhosana,” said a source.
The anti-poaching team followed at a distance and parked away from the house waiting for a signal from the informer. After raiding the house, they recovered nine ivory tusks. Some were recovered in Mpofu’s bedroom following a search. Also recovered, said the source, was a licensed pistol loaded with three rounds of ammunition. The tusks were taken to the police where they were expected to be weighed and valued.
ZimParks national spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo yesterday said: “He (Mpofu) was found in possession of 11 pieces of ivory weighing about 120kgs. He is assisting the police with investigations and is expected to appear in court soon. We have managed to recover a pistol from the incident scene and we are warning poachers and the public that if they attempt to shoot at rangers they will be shot. We will fight fire with fire,” said Mr Farawo.
He said there was no official value for the discovered ivory as it is sold in the black market due to an international ban in ivory trade.