A Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officer in charge of the Matabeleland North Provincial Armoury has been arrested on allegations of hiring out firearms to suspected poachers.
The matter came to light when Ame Mpala (35), a suspected poacher from Pumula East suburb in Bulawayo was arrested after being found in possession of a firearm without a licence and he implicated the top cop leading to his arrest.
Inspector David Fugao (42) and two colleagues who are also implicated in the alleged crime appeared at the Bulawayo Magistrates court, Saturday, after they were found in possession of numerous firearms and ammunition that did not belong to the State.
Insp Fugao is facing two counts of criminal abuse of office as a public officer while his colleagues Wonder Tawanda Kwaramba (33) and Francis Chaterera (39) are facing a single count each of the same charge.
Mpala also appeared seperately in court today facing a charge of illegally possessing a dangerous weapon.
Bulawayo magistrate Prince Ncube, remanded the quad in custody to March 25 for bail ruling.
The three police officers are being represented by Reliance Ndou of Mugiya and Macharaga Law Chambers while Mpala is represented by Kholwani Ngwenya of Mabhikwa and partners.
The state prosecutor Leonard Chile told the court that Mpala was nabbed at a police roadblock mounted on the 22km peg along Bulawayo-Gwanda road.
The court heard Mpala got the firearm from Insp Fugao which he used for his poaching activities and in return would share the proceeds with the former.
“At around 8PM on March 20, Mpala was travelling from Zvishavane to Bulawayo using a Toyota Wish together with two other passengers. Mpala was seated alone at the back seat. When they got to the roadblock police instructed everyone to disembark with their belongings.
“Mpala tried to force his way out of the vehicle before the other passengers who seated close to the door, leaving his parcel wrapped in a black plastic bag held together by a black muslin tape,” said Chile.
The court heard police officers instructed Mpala to take all his belongings but he disowned the parcel.
“The other passengers and the driver told the police officers that Mpala was the owner of the parcel for he had gotten into the car carrying it when they gave him a lift in Zvishavane. Upon going through his bag, the officers found a roll of black muslin tape matching the one used on the plastic bag,” said Chile.
He further told the court when Police officers unwrapped the parcel, they found a dismantled AK 47 Assault rifle with erased serial numbers.
Chile said the butt of the firearm was detached from the stalk and they also found a 30-round magazine loaded with five live rounds.
“Mpala was arrested and taken to ZRP Hillside. Mpala implicated Fugao saying he gave him the firearm. He told the police he used it for poaching activities and in return would share the proceeds with Fugao. Mpala said upon his arrest he was on his way to return the firearm to Fugao.”
Chile told the court when the police visited Insp Fugao, they found him, Kwaramba and Chaterera with firearms and ammunition which did not belong to the state at their work station.
He said more ammunition was recovered from a witness where it had been taken for safe keeping.
Chile said there are registered owners of the firearms who indicated they made private arrangements with the officers to service and repair their firearms for a reward using state resources.
According to the State property recovered from Fugao and Kwaramba included a .22 Kregeskorte rifle, .22 Winchester rifle, .635 Micros rifle, .22 revolver, noringo pistol, FN pistol, Special Renato Gamba revolver, .22 Astra Revolver, 6.53mm Beretta pistol, 6. 35mm Automatic Pistol, three pellet guns and various ammunition.
The State further alleged that firearms recovered from Chaterera was a .22 Birmingham Sports Company rifle, 12 Bore Winchester Shot gun, .22 Bruno rifle, .22 Mauser long rifle and a 03 Era rifle.