Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
FORMER Victoria Falls Mayor Sifiso Mpofu and two other co-accused persons have been acquitted of poaching and money laundering after the court established that they had been framed.
Messrs Mpofu (42), Milton Sibindi (47) and Patrick Sibanda (49) all of Mkhosana suburb were arrested in March on allegations that they had been found in possession of 11 elephant tusks.
They were charged with unlawful possession of raw or unmarked ivory and an additional charge of unlawfully acquiring or possessing property knowing or suspecting at the time of receipt that such property is a proceed of crime.
The three who were represented by Mr Thulani Nkala of Dube, Nkala and Company pleaded not guilty arguing that they were set up by police and rangers.
They said a trap was facilitated by an informer Mr Elkana Ndlovu who approached them in December last year purporting to have an investor who wanted to partner them in a hunting and safari business.
They said they were shocked when police swooped on them on 7 March, the night when they were meant to meet Mr Ndlovu and the said investor.
A white Toyota Harrier was said to have been parked in front of Mr Mpofu’s gate and some ivory was offloaded, only for police to say the ivory had been found at the former mayor’s house.
“We were deceived by Elkana Ndlovu who pretended to know an investor interested in hunting. A small car with people who were in civilian clothes parked next to a Toyota Harrier. We observed some ivory being removed from the Toyota Harrier and put in the small car before the Harrier drove off,” said Mr Mpofu.
He said police requested to search his house where they recovered four marked ivory horns which were put in the same vehicle with seven others that were unmarked.
The State led by Mr Bruce Maphosa led evidence from seven witnesses.
In his ruling Matabeleland North magistrate-in-charge Mr Livard Philemon said State witnesses contradicted their testimonies.
“The State version didn’t add up. It had a lot of gaps and question marks. They deliberately lied in the fact that they trapped the three accused and that they were on a routine patrol. The court finds as a matter of fact that the witnesses were mendacious.
“The court finds as following: State witnesses lied with regards to the events leading to the arrest and not knowing Elkana Ndlovu who was planning in contact with Zimparks. The witnesses were generally inconsistent with regards to how the events unfolded thus making their evidence unreliable,” said the magistrate.
“Therefore, the court concludes that the accused persons have successfully falsified the State case.
“Both counts are thus fatally affected by this unreliability of the witnesses. The accused are therefore found not guilty and acquitted.”
The 11 tusks weigh 27.99kg with a combined value $6 997. — @ncubeleon