Two bodies of suspected Zambian poachers found floating on the Zambezi River on Valentine’s Day were retrieved by Zimbabwean police this week, days after they escaped an ambush, according to Zimbabwean media.
The two were part of a suspected poaching syndicate who escaped after exchanging gun fire with police in the Jambezi area on February 6.
The Zambia Watchdog believes these two were shot dead by the Zimbabwean police and later dumped in the river. It does not make sense that after exchanging gun fire with the police, they were found floating in the Zambezi river.
But the Zimbabwean media says Superintendent Dominic Sibanda, the officer commanding Victoria Falls police, said relatives of the two men were in Zimbabwe to collect their bodies.
“The two bodies were spotted on February 14 by spotted by fishermen who were at the Zambezi River near Jambezi,” he said.
“They reported the matter and we went to rescue them but we couldn’t find them until yesterday (Thursday).
“They were both naked and the other had both legs missing.”
Sibanda said the names of the deceased could not be released until they were positively identified by their relatives who had returned to Zambia to get proper documents.
He said an accomplice of the suspected poachers had admitted that the group had crossed into Zimbabwe to illegally hunt wild animals.
“Initially the suspected refused to cooperate but his eyes were guilty,” Sibanda said.
“We then interrogated him after finding the names of the six accused and it showed that they were together.
“He admitted and said they had come to poach as it was their business.
He said the two deceased poachers’ relatives had asked for the bodies from the police.
“The families together with Zambian police came to our office this afternoon (Friday ) seeking for release of their and they indicated to us that one of the suspects who is still at large said they had died in the river after failing to cross,” Sibanda said.
“We told them that we had taken the bodies to Bulawayo. They are from Lusaka.
“We sent them back to go and collect all their documents so that we release the bodies.”
Meanwhile, one of the suspected members of the syndicate Chistopher Malasa Mandaya (35) appeared at the Victoria Falls Magistrates’ Court facing charges of illegal possession of firearms and dagga.
Mandaya is accused of entering Zimbabwe illegally after he was arrested a fortnight ago in Jambezi.
He was not asked to plead to the charges when he appeared before Rangarirai Gakanye and was remanded in custody to February 22.
Prosecutor Listen Nare said Mandanya and five accomplices who were still at large were spotted by Jambezi villagers moving around the area carrying firearms.
On February 6, police laid an ambush at night and spotted the group.
Police fired warning shots and the suspects returned fire but Mandaya was eventually arrested.
He was found in possession of 25 rounds of ammunition, two axes and butcher knives and two kilogrammes of dagga.