Brenda Zinyuke, Court Reporter
THERE were dramatic scenes at the Tredgold Magistrates’ Courts yesterday when anti-Government activist, Josphat “Mzaca” Ngulube and three accomplices were each jailed seven years for burning three vehicles belonging to Zanu-PF Bulawayo provincial women’s league chairperson, Cde Eva Bitu, in Sizinda suburb during the January violent protests.
Ngulube (34) of Sizinda suburb, a Bulawayo South Constituency losing independent candidate in last year’s harmonised elections, Fortune Masuku (29), Melusi Moyo (32) and Otilia Sibanda (34) had pleaded not guilty to malicious damage to property but were, however, convicted by Mr Tinashe Tashaya due to overwhelming evidence.
The four will, however, each serve an effective six years in jail after one year was suspended on condition that they do not commit a similar offence in the next five years.
Soon after the pronouncement of the sentence, a group of women believed to be relatives of the accused started wailing uncontrollably.
Mr Tashaya said the quartet had committed a serious offence in aggravating circumstances.
“The offence was committed in aggravation after the whole country was plunged into violence. The accused persons were acting in common purpose with other perpetrators and were using social media to incite people to engage in violence forcing Government to temporarily shut down the internet. Everything came to a standstill as roads were barricaded while shops were looted and burnt, he said.
Mr Tashaya said the events of that week and particularly the day in question could not be disputed.
He said many people were victims of the violence that left a trail of destruction and injured some people including police officers who were overwhelmend.
“The offence does not only call for a custodial sentence but a lengthy one given the value of property which was destroyed,” said Mr Tashaya.
Ngulube produced a video purportedly indicating that on that fateful day he was attending a funeral but Mr Tashaya dismissed the evidence.
“Although it is not disputed that on the day in question Ngulube was attending a funeral in Sizinda, the time factor is not fully accounted for. The funeral proceedings were supposed to commence at 7AM but delayed and only started around 10AM. There is nothing that was brought before the court to show what accused person was doing in between. This evidence is important because the alleged offence, according to State witnesses, occurred between 7AM and 10AM,” said Mr Tashaya.
He said the funeral could not have stopped Ngulube from committing the crime.
Mr Tashaya said three State witnesses gave credible evidence which nailed Ngulube and his accomplices.
He said the State therefore managed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
Prosecuting, Mr Jetro Mada said on January 14 at around 7AM, Ngulube and his accomplices connived with about 100 other protesters, unlawfully blocked the free movement of traffic at an intersection between Sizinda Road and Nketa Drive.
He said the mob confronted Cde Bitu at her home in Sizinda before shouting at her as they continued accusing her of benefiting from taxpayers’ money.
They threw stones and damaged window panes before pushing Cde Bitu’s Ford Ranger out of the yard and torching it.
“The accused persons returned to the yard where they had left a Nissan NP300 and a Toyota Vitz. They also set alight the Nissan NP 300 whose flames partly destroyed the Toyota Vitz. The Ford Ranger and Nissan NP300 were burnt to ashes,” said Mr Mada.
The total value of the destroyed property is US$95 000. — @zinyuke98.