In a scenario that could have emanated from the lack of financial appreciation from the so-called beautiful game, a soccer player with Hwange Football Club will spend the next nine years behind bars after he was convicted for illegal possession of elephant tusks.

The player, Craven Banda (35), who resides at N2 Lusumbami Village, Number 5 and employed by Hwange Colliery Company, was arrested in May after Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) rangers received a tip-off that he was in possession of the tusks.

After the tip-off, an anti-poaching team made up of police officers and Zimparks rangers cornered the dribbling wizard in Makwika Village where they found him with the tusks in a bag.

Appearing before Matabeleland North magistrate-in-charge Sekai Chiundura, Banda pleaded not guilty to violating Section 82(1) of the Statutory Instrument 362/1990 ‘As Read With’ Section 128(b) of the Parks and Wildlife Act Chapter 20:14 which prohibits to acquire, possess or transfer unregistered raw ivory without a permit.

In his defence, the footballer told the court that the bag had been left by some people who ran away when they saw the Zimparks car coming.

Nevertheless, he was convicted after full trial and sentenced to nine years in jail.

“On 24 May Zimparks rangers received information that there was a person with a bag containing ivory at Makwika bus stop in Hwange. They teamed up with police detectives and rushed to Makwika bus stop where they found the accused sitting alone on the bus stop bench with a blue bag on his laps,” said John Chisango Mutyakaviri, who prosecuted.

Chisango-Mutyakaviri also said when a joint deployment of ZimParks officials and detectives asked to search Banda’s bag, they discovered that there were eight pieces of ivory inside the bag.

“The team asked for a permit authorising the accused to possess ivory but he did not have it,” Chisango-Mutyakaviri said.

Subsequently, Banda was arrested and taken to the police.

The state alleges that the poached ivory weighed 9, 405kg while its value was not given.

The now incarcerated Chipangano left back was, at one time, a key figure at the colliery side where he spent more than a decade.

He also had a stint in neighbouring Botswana where he was on loan to Motlakase Power Dynamos between 2011and 2013.

In 2019, Banda was on the books of Makomo FC in the unfashionable Southern Region Zifa Division 1 league before bouncing back to the coalminers this year.

state media
additional reporting: Zwnews