THREE COPS ACQUITTED newsdzeZimbabweNewsdzeZimbabwe

THREE COPS ACQUITTED newsdzeZimbabweNewsdzeZimbabwe

The Mutare Regional Court has acquitted three senior police investigators from Asset Forfeiture Unit headquarters who were accused of digging up a house in Nyanyadze, Manicaland Province, in search of hidden, undisclosed treasure in 2022, saying they were acting within the bounds of the law.

Judge Fadzai Mthombeni acquitted the three – Shepherd Tashiona, Mkhululi Nyoni and Monica Mazima – at the conclusion of the state’s case.

They were accused of abusing their criminal duty as public officials, as defined in Section 174 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23].

According to the state, the trio were accused of failing to inform relevant departments that include mines, mine development and national housing as well as the ministries of defence, the Minerals, Flora and Fauna CID and the police.

The three, who were represented by lawyers Joseph Nmisa, Musindo Hongwe and George Manukuri, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The testimony of the main witness, Assistant Commissioner of Police Themba Mushuriwa, was discredited during cross-examination and he ended up making concessions that confirmed the defendant’s defences.

Mushuriwa had told the court that the defendants acted outside their police area, but they ended up admitting during interrogation that the Tashiona and Nyoni police areas include the whole of Zimbabwe, while Madzima operates in the northern zone covering Mashonaland, Masvingo and Manicaland provinces. .

Mushuriwa also admitted that the scene of the incident was under the Mazima Police Area, but failed to provide the standard operating procedure that prevents the accused persons from operating within the said area.

Although Mushuriwa testified that they did not notify him, he conceded under oath that the defendants had performed the law and there was no uniform procedure requiring any of them to inform him first before they could search or seize anything from anyone.

Mushuriwa admitted that the accused made a legal application for a search and seizure warrant.

It was proven that the defendants investigated a crime that fell within the scope of their jurisdiction, as officers were deployed in the Asset Confiscation Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department.

The defendants were executing a search warrant issued by a court of law, saying there was no need to inform other government departments.

The second state witness, Simangaliso Memori Muchaya, an agricultural extension officer, confirmed that the police were empowered with a search and seizure warrant and also confirmed that the owner of the building was aware of the hidden treasure as her husband had once excavated the same building in search of it.

The third witness, Victor Mukungonogwa, a scientist working for the National Geographic Space Agency of Zimbabwe, was also present in his capacity as a scientist employed by the State, and was allowed by his manager to assist the accused in conducting the survey.

He also confirmed the existence of the hidden treasure.

Another state witness, Revisai Zvegodini Matemba, a prophet and individual with the skill of detecting hidden metals through the use of wires, told the court that the defendants had invited him to help with the survey.

He told the court that he met the accused at the ZRP Mkushi warehouse (formerly Morris warehouse) in Harare, where he was shown a search warrant, after which the accused sought his assistance.

The witness also told the court that he agreed to help without compensation because he wanted to help the state.

The defendants asserted, through their lawyers, that the state failed to prove the illegality of their actions.

But Mthombini ruled in favor of the three, saying the state had failed to prove the case against the accused.

“Once the court reaches the conclusion that there is no evidence that the accused committed the crime charged or any other crime arising from that charge, it has no choice but to prove the accused’s innocence and release him.

“In this case, there was no evidence proving an essential element of the crime.

“There is no evidence that a reasonable court acting with care could properly convict. Nor has any evidence been adduced to show a violation of the common law.”

According to the prosecution, Tashiona, Nyoni and Mazima allegedly excavated Mushaya’s yard without obtaining permission from their superiors or engaging with relevant government experts.

On 22 December, the accused officers reportedly arrived at the Nyanyadze irrigation project armed with a search and seizure warrant issued on 18 October 2023, obtained from the Chipinge District Court.

They informed the owner of the house, a mourner, of their intention to dig up her yard in search of the hidden treasure. Newsday

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