Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
NINE machete-wielding gold panners linked to a gang that allegedly went on a rampage attacking other miners at Durban Mine in Inyathi, Matabeleland North province where they also looted shops, have approached the High Court for bail.
The violent illegal miners disturbed small-scale mining operations by looting shops, vandalising infrastructure and injuring people.
Ivene Sibanda (30), Nkosinamandla Mthimkhulu (28), Prince Ngwenya (26), Marshal Sibindi (28), Bhekimpilo Tshuma (31), Zakaria Sibindi (22), Dingani Ncube (24), Edmond Mkandla (33) and Kholwani Ncube (29) are facing charges of public violence.
They allegedly descended on Durban Mine in Inyathi and caused mayhem by damaging three shacks, looting shops and attacking members of the public using machetes.
The nine suspects, through their lawyer Mr Liberty Mcijo of Liberty Mcijo and Associates, last week filed an application for bail pending trial at the Bulawayo High Court citing the State as a respondent.
In their bail statement, the applicants are denying the charges, arguing that they were not linked to the alleged acts of violence that took place three months ago.
They argued that there were no compelling reasons justifying their continued detention.
“There is no proof let alone allegations that at any time applicants were fugitives from justice. All the applicants have no previous criminal records and the State has no compelling reasons at all for the denial of bail,” said Mr Mcijo.
He said his clients could not be punished for a blanket stereotyped group of criminals as there was no proof they terrorised people on that particular day.
“The applicants have never participated in any form of public violence, looting of shops and arming themselves with machetes. On the day in question, some were not even at work while others were busy in their shafts doing work. The applicants only heard about the incident,” said Mr Mcijo.
“Applicants believe their defence to the charges is very strong such that if released on bail they would not be induced to abscond.”
The nine accused persons offered to pay $100 bail each and to report once a week at Inyathi Police Station as part of the bail conditions.
The State is yet to respond to the application.
Allegations against the accused persons are that on November 26 last year at Dodolo/18, Durban Mine in Inyathi, they forcibly disturbed peace and security by damaging three shacks, looting shops and attacking members of the public using machetes.
Two other suspects allegedly linked to the same gang who attacked other miners in an alleged tribal war that resulted in the death of one victim at the same mine, were released on $300 bail each pending trial.
Nkosimayibongwe Sibanda (30) of Sauerstown suburb in Bulawayo and Andrew Sibanda (19) of Hojen Village in Nkayi were allegedly part of about 50 artisanal miners who armed themselves with machetes and axes and went on a rampage, attacking other miners.
Some of the victims who were severely assaulted sustained serious injuries. Misheck Sibanda resultantly died upon admission to Mpilo Central Hospital.
The gang was on a witch-hunt for Shona speaking people they accused of invading their gold rich area.
As part of their mission, they left Dodolo Mine and went to Marumisa Mine before proceeding to Merlyn North Mine in the same area where they found Misheck going about his business.
They pounced on the deceased whom they singled out as one of their targets. Nkosimayibongwe together with one accomplice identified as Sampro who is still at large, were the first to strike Misheck with stones.
When the deceased tried to flee, Andrew struck him on the head and he bled profusely before he collapsed.
The accused persons were restrained by the mine manager from continuing with the attack. The deceased was taken to Mpilo Central Hospital where he later succumbed to the injuries.— @mashnets