The Sunday News
Peter Matika, Senior Reporter
TSHOLOTSHO Rural District Council executive officer-in-charge of Natural Resources, Mr Simelisizwe Sibanda has been sent on forced leave, following his arrest and subsequent appearance in court, where he is facing allegations of manipulating hunting permits and pocketing huge sums of money from selling animal skins.
Sibanda, among other senior officials from Matabeleland North Province is alleged to have been involved in illegal poaching activities and abuse of office. The Government recently dispatched a crack team from Harare to investigate the matter. Council officials also alleged to have been sucked into the illegal and rampant poaching activities are said to be working with rogue safari operators. Sibanda was arrested and remanded out of custody on $200 bail when he appeared before Tsholotsho magistrate Mr Victor Mpofu recently.
Tsholotsho RDC chairperson Councillor Esau Siwela confirmed that Sibanda was suspended after the recommendation from a full council meeting.
“We convened as a council meeting and recommended, after careful and due deliberation through certain labour acts and statutory instruments that he be placed on forced leave. We did this as we wanted to avoid any contradictions with the law. This was all done after we heard and witnessed his arrest and court case. As council we resolved to place him on forced leave for three months,” said Clr Siwela.
He said the RDC had also recommended a committee to investigate the issue and if Sibanda was found to have breached anything he would be taken to a disciplinary hearing.
“We prescribed a committee but Sibanda disputed two of the members, saying he felt it would not be fair as they have their own disputes,” said Clr Siwela.
However, some officials within the council questioned why Mr Sibanda was sent on forced leave despite the fact that the Human Resources Committee had recommended he be suspended.
Sibanda’s arrest follows that of former Victoria Falls Mayor Sifiso Mpofu and two other accomplices who appeared in court, after being found in possession of 11 elephant tusks.