Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
TWELVE machete-wielding illegal gold panners were arrested for allegedly raiding the home of a 75-year-old Nkayi businesswoman while she was sleeping with her family.
Stanford Tshuma (25), Lucky Chininga (23), Bathabile Moyo (21), Ayanda Sibanda (44), Gift Mukuza (24), Venson Moyo (29), Mthabisi Moyo (25), Hezekia Ncube (31), Mehluli Ncube (32), Nkululeko Moyo (25), Mimi Mpofu (20) and Ntabiso Mthethwa (20) all from Belmont area in Nkayi allegedly broke into Ms Besie Khumalo’s home on the night of January 17 armed with machetes and axes.
They however, went away empty handed after the victim screamed prompting her neighbours to come to her rescue. They were arrested following an identification parade.
The accused persons are facing charges of unlawful entry into premises in aggravating circumstances.
The 12 men, through their lawyers Mashayamombe and Company Attorneys, have filed an application for bail pending trial at the Bulawayo High Court citing the State as a respondent.
According to court papers, it was stated that on January 17 at around 2.55AM, the 12 accused persons went to Ms Khumalo’s home armed with machetes and axes.
Upon arrival, they allegedly struck the main kitchen door using an axe and damaged burglar bars to gain entry into the house.
Three of the accused persons entered the complainant’s bedroom carrying machetes and axes while the other eight remained outside.
The complainant heard the noise and she woke up; screaming, prompting her neighbours to wake up.
The neighbours and some of the complainant’s family members teamed up and confronted the accused persons and they fled the scene after realising that they had been outnumbered.
The accused persons were arrested on the same day following a police report. The complainant managed to positively identify the accused persons during an identification parade.
In their bail application, the accused persons are denying the charges and argue that the alleged machetes and axes were not found.
They are saying that the State case is weak.
“The applicants know nothing about the offence and worse the use of weapons and the identification parade fell short of the requirements. The State has proffered presuppositions and baseless assumptions,” said the accused persons’ lawyer.
The accused persons also dismissed the investigating officer’s assertion that there were likely to abscond if released on bail. They further argued that there were no compelling reasons warranting their continued detention.
“Cogent reasons for fear of abscondment must be proffered not to merely state the word as if its mention is mandatory in every opposition to bail. The accused persons will not abscond and the accused persons to date have not directly or indirectly interfered with any witnesses. It is humbly submitted that the State has no compelling reasons for continued detention,” said the lawyer.
The accused persons offered to pay $200 bail each and to report once a week at Nkayi Police Station as well as not interfering with State witnesses as part of the bail condition. They also offered to reside at their given addresses until the matter is finalised.
The State is yet to respond to the application.
Gangs armed with machetes have been terrorising people across the country.
Last Friday, a seven-member gang armed with machetes, axes, iron bars and bicycle chains besieged Nyaradza Business Centre in Gokwe South before searching and robbing people and businesses.
Recently, a gang of machete wielding men pounced on a gold mine at Inyathi in Matabeleland North where they allegedly attacked workers before they went away with half a tonne of gold ore. Three of the suspects have since been arrested and the matter is still pending before the court.
Police Commissioner General Godwin Matanga has since issued a stern warning to the machete terror gangs that the law will soon catch up with them. Police have since issued orders to prohibit carrying of dangerous weapons in the gold mining areas. — @mashnets.