Police in Zimbabwe are investigating the country’s ex-first lady, Grace Mugabe over allegations that she had been illegally exporting tons of elephant tusks, gold and diamonds when she was still active first lady.
The investigation follows some evidences provided by an Australian photo journalist named Adrian Steirn who posed as a customer for contraband ivory to infiltrate the smuggling and poaching networks.
Steirn said he decided to launch the investigation after hearing rumours about Grace Mugabe’s complicity in trade during several years reporting on wildlife crime in Africa.
“For years I’ve been documenting the front-line poachers who end up serving 20 years for shooting a giraffe. Meanwhile, she was taking billions of dollars out of the country,” Steirn said. “If they charge and arrest her, and she goes to jail for wildlife crimes, that will change the dynamic of the entire perception of wildlife trafficking across Africa,” he said.
It is reported that two other suspects in the same business mentioned Grace Mugabe as a mastermind of the illegal export of ivory.
Zimbabwe is home to about 86,000 elephants, the second largest population in Africa, according to a 2016 census. That figure represented a 10 per cent drop since 2005.
Although the population is considered healthy in the north-west of the country, losses have been heavy in other parts. About 900 elephants were lost to poachers between 2013 and 2016, nearly 250 of them poisoned with cyanide or shot.
Meanwhile, president Mnangagwa has sanctioned an urgent investigation into Grace Mugabe’s activities and she will answer charges once the investigations are done.