Political activist, Josphat ‘Mzaca’ Ngulube, was Friday sentenced to seven years in prison after he and three other accomplices were found guilty of public violence.
Ngulube (34), Fortune Masuku (29), Melusi Moyo (32) and Otilia Sibanda (34) were all given a seven year custodial sentence with one year suspended on condition of good behavior.
Bulawayo provincial magistrate, Tinashe Tashaya found the four guilty of burning three cars, destroying a precast wall and breaking several windows of a house belonging to Zanu PF Bulawayo Provincial Women’s League Chairperson, Eva Bitu, during the January Shutdown protests.
In passing his sentence, Tashaya said the four were first offenders but due to their conduct and gravity of the offense, they would not be treated with leniency.
“The offense was committed in aggravation after the whole country was plunged into violence. The accused persons were acting in common cause and using social media to communicate their actions,” said the magistrate who removed them from the bar of first offenders.
“The country’s standing was tainted when government intervened using minimal force to quell the violence. Many citizens were affected by the public violence during that period.”
Tashaya added that the law was in danger as police officers failed to contain the situation.
“The offense does not only call for a custodial sentence but a lengthy one. The offense was worsened when they burnt a government vehicle (Ford Ranger) and other two cars,” he said.
According to the state’s case presented by Prosecutor Jetro Mada, on January 14 around 7am, the accused persons, allegedly conniving 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 where they 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,” he said.
The prosecutor noted that all the cars had a total value of US$95 000.
After sentencing was passed, relatives and friends who had come to offer support to Ngulube and the three other accused person, left the court in tears after learning of the sentence.
Ngulube and the three others were supposed to be sentenced Monday but Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services failed to bring those in remand to court citing transport challenges.
The court had to resort to sending a truck to Khami Prison to fetch those in remand in order to make their appearances.