ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF GOVERNMENT TROPHY IS AN OFFENCE

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The revelation by the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, Mr. Paul Zyambo, that every person being in possession of wild animal skin, whether for purposes of traditional ceremonies or any other use, needs to secure a certificate of ownership, provides some good guidance.

And according to the director, every wild animal skin is regarded as government trophy whether held by a traditional leader, used for purposes of a traditional ceremony or any other, and it is a prosecutable offence to be found in possession of it without authority from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife.

We call it good guidance because there has always been some confusion, with mixed views expressed about whether it is right for some people to be allowed to freely possess government trophy, in the name of traditional ceremonies, while others are being prosecuted for it.

We also agree with the views expressed by the Chief Affairs and Traditional Affairs minister Lawrence Sichalwe that traditional ceremonies should be allowed to use the wild animal hides freely because the events are special cultural occasions intended to educate people about where we are coming from and who we are as a people.

As minister Sichalwe puts it, wearing wild animal hides at traditional ceremonies may indeed be one way of showing the world about who we are, but in our view, it still abrogates the law on possession of government trophy and provides a clear selective application of the law, yet no one is above the law.

Allowing some individuals and events to possess government trophy and freely use it without certification, will simply continue to create some confusion in the enforcement of the law and in the end provide an opportunity for criminals, like poachers, to take advantage of the situation.

So true indeed, the observation by the Paramount Chief Mpezeni that the government trophy (in the form of wild animal skins in this case) have been used in traditional ceremonies since time immemorial and that the skins, currently in the people’s hands, were sourced a long time ago – Nivakudala.

We, of course, also understand the sad observation by the paramount chief that the animal hides, currently being used at traditional ceremonies, were not sourced now but a long time ago, because “there is no more wildlife left to hunt”.

The statement by the traditional leader may, of course, appear simple and straight forward but it is clear acknowledgement of the serious danger that we face as a nation, of diminishing wildlife – with potential to get completely eradicated if we relax or become selective in the application of protection regulations.

In our view, illegal government trophy in some people’s hands, in some cases, may imply that poaching could have taken place somewhere. Therefore, the early we start sensitizing people on the need to legally obtain their wild animal skins, or indeed any other types of government trophy, whether for traditional ceremonies or other uses, the better.

Infact, no one ought to be given exception when it comes to the enforcement of the law to avoid creating sacred cows.

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