Bulawayo political activist Josphat ‘Mzaca’ Ngulube and three other assailants were on Thursday convicted of burning three cars and property of a house belonging to Zanu-PF Bulawayo provincial women’s league chairperson Eva Bitu.
Ngulube (34), Fortune Masuku (29), Melusi Moyo (32) and Otilia Sibanda (34) were found guilty of malicious damage to property during the violent January protests.
Lavenda Moyo (66), their co-accused, was found not guilty and acquitted.
Bulawayo Provincial Magistrate Tinashe Tashaya remanded the four in custody to November 18 for mitigation and sentencing.
In passing his judgment, Magistrate Tashaya dismissed the alibis provided by the four in defence, citing that they lacked consistency and were outweighed by testimonies given by state witnesses.
Ngulube had provided a video where he was attending a funeral on the fateful day as his alibi but the magistrate dismissed the evidence citing it did not fully exonerate him.
“Although it is undisputed that on the day in question Ngulube was attending a funeral in Sizinda, the time factor is not fully accounted for. The funeral proceedings were supposed to commence at 7 AM but delayed and only started around 10 AM.
“There is nothing that was brought before the court to show what accused person was doing in-between time. This evidence is important because the alleged offence, according to State witnesses, occurred between 7 AM and 10 AM. Therefore, the said funeral could not have stopped the accused person from partaking in the public violence,” said Tashaya.
The magistrate also ruled that Sibanda gave contradictory evidence concerning her whereabouts on the fateful day as she initially testified that passed by Bitu’s house in the company of her child and later on said she had passed the house by herself.
Magistrate Tashaya said three state witnesses testified that Sibanda shouted that Bitu’s cars must be burnt.
Magistrate Tashaya, in the case of Lavenda Moyo, said state witnesses did place her on the crime scene but they all said she did not partake in the violence but instead she tried to reprimand the protestors from burning Bitu’s property.
According to the State case as presented by Jetro Mada, on 14 January at about 7 am, the accused persons, acting in connivance with 100 others, unlawfully blocked the free movement of traffic at an intersection along Sizinda Road and Nketa Drive.
Mada said the crew accused Bitu of solely benefiting from taxpayers’ money and pushed her Ford Ranger out of the yard and set it alight.
“Accused persons went back into the yard where they had left a Nissan NP300 and a Toyota Vitz. They set alight the Nissan whose flames destroyed part of the Vitz. The Ford Ranger and Nissan NP300 were burnt beyond repair,” said Mada.
Mada said the cars have a total value of US$95 000.