Zimbabwean police are investigating former Zimbabwean ruler Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace, who is accused of smuggling ivory worth millions of dollars to underground foreign markets.
According to a Zimbabwean weekly newspaper, Sunday Mail Grace Mugabe is alleged to have smuggled ivory worth millions of dollars out of Zimbabwe.
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority investigators have reportedly submitted key documents relevant to these allegations to the police.
News of Grace Mugabe’s alleged illegal activities was broken by Australian photographer Adrian Steirn, who lives in South Africa. He went undercover for several months in Zimbabwe while making a wildlife documentary. In the process he encountered poachers, ivory buyers and carvers, and interviewed them. Steirn said he was amazed when he heard the name Grace Mugabe in connection with elephant poaching.
The Sunday Mail and South African news organisations are reporting that former President Robert Mugabe’s wife’s name was not only used in connection with poaching elephants, she was also allegedly connected to the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, responsible for all Zimbabwe’s national parks, and a huge warehouse that is used to store confiscated rhino horn, elephant tusks and other dead animal products which cannot be sold or traded because of international treaties to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.
According to Steirn, ivory was pilfered from this warehouse, or sourced from poachers killed by poaching syndicates. The syndicate would then sell to Grace Mugabe’s clientele, with the former first lady exploiting her exemption from airport security to smuggle the ivory.
Steirn is quoted as saying that anything that was the property of the first lady or her entourage was not searched or scanned in any way at Zimbabwe’s international airport.
Christopher Mutsvangwa, special advisor to Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is quoted as saying that the authorities would seek answers from all parties, including former first lady Grace Mugabe about their knowledge of the illegal export of prohibited items from Zimbabwe.
Grace Mugabe has so far not responded to the allegations of ivory smuggling.
Robert Mugabe was ousted from power last November by the military. Mugabe’s departure was greeted with ecstasy across the country and many neighbouring countries in the southern African region welcomed the end of Mugabe’s 37 year rule.