Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
THE High Court has dismissed an application for bail pending trial by a polygamous Plumtree police officer accused of sexually molesting 20 pupils while conducting an investigation into alleged sexual abuse at Bulu Primary school in Mphoengs.
Constable Peter Muzulu (35) allegedly shoved his fingers into 20 pupils’ private parts and fondled their breasts on March 26. The Grade Six and Grade Seven girls are aged between 11 and 16 years.
Muzulu, who resides at Plumtree ZRP camp, is facing 20 counts of aggravated indecent assault.
The ruling by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Thompson Mabhikwa follows an application for bail pending trial by Muzulu through his lawyer Mr Innocent Mafirakurewa of Moyo and Nyoni Legal Practitioners, citing the State as a respondent.
In dismissing Muzulu’s application, Justice Mabhikwa said there were compelling reasons justifying the applicant’s continued detention.“It is clear that the State has a strong case against the applicant. When coupled with the fact that if convicted, he is likely to face a lengthy prison term considering the circumstances of the case, this may be an inducement for him to flee,” said the judge.
Justice Mabhikwa said if the accused person is released on bail, there was also a likelihood of an outrage from the community resulting in disturbing public order or undermining public peace.
“In the circumstances, it is the court’s finding that there are compelling reasons for the applicant’s continued detention. He is a flight risk and the application is accordingly dismissed,” ruled Justice Mabhikwa.
In his bail application statement, Muzulu, who is a member of the Johane Masowe Apostolic Faith sect, said he is a sole bread winner taking care of his seven wives and 15 children, the youngest being five months old.
He is denying the charges, arguing that there was no reason why the complainants failed to raise alarm by screaming while being allegedly molested.
“It is not clear as to when they all reported the allegations to the class teacher and why the applicant was not advised of such allegations at the time that he met the headmistress and indicated to her that he had completed the interviews. The applicant therefore vehemently denies the charges that have been levelled against him,” said Mr Mafirakurewa.
He said medical reports conducted by three different doctors confirmed that there was no penetration or any visible injuries suggesting that the pupils were abused.
He argued that there were no compelling reasons by the State to justify his continued detention.
“The applicant in casu has demonstrated and discharged the onus on him, on a balance of probabilities, that it is in the interests of justice for him to be released on bail,” said the lawyer.
Muzulu had offered to pay $100 bail, surrender his passport and to report twice a week at Plumtree Police Station as part of the bail conditions.
In papers before the court, it is alleged that on March 26 at around 4PM, the officer-in-charge Mphoengs Police Station assigned Muzulu to go to Bulu Primary School to investigate alleged sexual abuse cases involving the pupils following a tip off.
On arrival at the school, Muzulu met the headmistress who briefed him about the issue before he requested to be provided with a room where he conducted one-on-one sessions with 20 female pupils while interviewing them about cases of sexual assault at the school.
He is accused of having denied a female teacher permission to be part of the meetings and said he only wanted to be with the pupils alone.
During the interviews, Muzulu is alleged to have asked a series of questions before fondling the girls during one-on-one meetings with each of them.
He went on to insert his fingers into the pupils’ genitals without their consent. The matter came to light when pupils reported their ordeal to their teachers who in turn reported the matter to the police leading to Muzulu’s arrest.