Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
A GROUP of 18 villagers from Gwanda district who allegedly ganged up with 11 Batswana and brutally assaulted seven suspected stock thieves, killing one of them, has been released on $5 000 bail by the High Court.
Mujaji Sebata (46), Noble Mahlangu (36), Muzi Ncube (age not given), Mthandazo Mahlangu (46), Mpilo Ndlovu (46), Jacob Dube (29), Philani Moyo (38), Freeman Mlauzi (26), Phathisani Manyike (32), Obert Moyo (45), Decrease Ndlovu (40), Forsure Ndlovu (age not given), Lovemore Nyathi (age not given) Polite Kokobele (54), Owen Nyathi (35), Prince Nyathi (31), Carlson Mahlangu (34) and Trinity Masiyane (37) all from Chief Mathe area in Gwanda district are facing a murder charge in connection with the death of Justice Ncube.
In granting the 18 accused persons bail, Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Christopher Dube-Banda ordered them to report once a month at Guyu Police Station and to continue residing at their given addresses.
“It is ordered that the applicants deposit $5 000 with the Registrar of the High of Court in Bulawayo, with each one of them reporting at ZRP Guyu Police Station once a month.
Each applicant should not interfere with the State witnesses or tamper with evidence until the finalisation of the matter,” ruled the judge.
The ruling by Justice Dube-Banda followed an application for bail pending trial by the applicants through their lawyers Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers.
In papers before the court, the State was cited as a respondent.
In their bail statement, the accused persons are denying the charge, arguing that the deceased was assaulted by the Batswana who were interrogating him.
“The deceased was found in possession of 14 stolen donkeys, 11 of which were positively identified by Tswanas who immediately assaulted him,” argued the lawyers.
The State conceded to the application, saying there were no compelling reasons for denying the accused persons bail.
The incident, which occurred last month at John West Village under Chief Marupi in Gwanda District, came at a time when Government has set up an inter-ministerial committee to fight cross-border stock theft along the Zimbabwe-Botswana border.
The move is in response to concerns raised during the recent third session of the Zimbabwe-Botswana Bi-National Commission (BNC) in Victoria Falls.
President Mnangagwa and his Botswana counterpart, President Mokgweetsi Masisi, in March oversaw the signing of several memoranda of understanding (MoUs) covering various sectors during the third session of the BNC.
The commission resolved that there was a need to expedite the establishment of bases along the Mlambaphele Border, which must be fully resourced and be in sync with the ones established in Botswana.
According to court papers, it was stated that the accused and 11 Batswana from a neighbouring village across the border went to Prince Nyathi’s homestead in Mashaba Village under Chief Mathe area in Gwanda and informed him that they were looking for their nine stolen donkeys suspected to be at John West.
Nyathi notified Mathias Ncube, who is chairperson of the Gwanda Anti Stock Theft Association (Gasta), an association formed to curb stock theft in their area.
Ncube then mobilised Obert Moyo, Celani Ncube and 21 other villagers and they teamed up with the Batswana and drove to John West to look for their stolen donkeys.
The group managed to locate one Godwill Ndlovu (36) and Justice Ncube at a homestead belonging to one Prince Dube and recovered 14 donkeys penned at the homestead.
Eleven of the recovered donkeys were positively identified and belonged to one Alphios Mahlangu of Guyu area while the Batswana positively identified two donkeys as theirs.
The gang handcuffed the two suspected thieves and force-marched them to their accomplice, Miriam Ndlovu’s homestead where they damaged a window pane and damaged the main door to the house and gained entry.
The suspects went to another homestead belonging to Letwin Maphosa, who is also suspected to be part of the stock theft gang.
They forced open the main door and gained entry. The suspects were further led to Nation Ndlovu’s homestead and they found no one.
The suspects proceeded to Patricia Dube’s homestead and broke the main door and gained entry into the house.
On their way back, some John West villagers aligned with the suspected stock thieves followed the suspects and the two rival camps clashed during which they assaulted two Batswana and two locals and reclaimed the recovered donkeys.
The suspects took with them Ndlovu and Ncube to Mashaba area where they savagely assaulted them using sjambok and sticks. Ncube died on the spot while Ndlovu was rushed to Gwanda Provincial Hospital.
Ncube’s body was taken to Gwanda Provincial Hospital mortuary pending a post-mortem.
The matter was reported at Nhwali Police Base leading to the arrest of one of the accused persons. — @mashnets