Ex-top cop gets life for fatal shooting
AN ex-top police detective who fatally shot a mine worker in a fight over the ownership of a gold mine in Fort Rixon was yesterday sentenced to life in jail.
Refias Masuna (50) of Mahatshula North, Bulawayo, who was employed as an operations manager by Manifest Security Company was convicted of murder with actual intent by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Francis Bere.
Masuna killed Ernest Mudenda (31) at Zulu 8 Mine Pioneer in Fort Rixon on December 12, 2014.
In passing the sentence, Justice Bere said under normal circumstances, Masuna could have been sentenced to death.
The judge said the convict was a former high ranking official who had handled firearms for 18 years and his conduct was uncalled for. He described the murder as brutal. “In aggravation, we are concerned that an innocent life was needlessly lost in circumstances which show total disregard of a court order, and that disregard of the law calls for a stiffer penalty,” said the judge.
“People who decide to kill merely because they disagree with a court order as in this case are clearly a danger to society and they should not expect mercy from our courts.”
Justice Bere said Masuna, by virtue of being an ex-cop, had vast experience in handling a firearm, but acted otherwise.
“To compound matters, the accused is not an ordinary citizen, but was a highly ranked police officer. He was an expert in the use of a firearm having been using it for the past 18 years and he should have not used such a dangerous weapon on an innocent person who was not even the owner of the disputed mine, but an ordinary worker who was trying to eke out a living.
“By any standard this was a brutal murder which under normal circumstances should have attracted capital punishment. We however, do accept that there were compelling factors in mitigation. The accused is therefore spared the agony of capital punishment, but instead is sentenced to life imprisonment,” ruled the judge.
Masuna was part of the team that investigated the late MDC legislator Fletcher Dulini-Ncube and five other party activists who were accused of kidnapping and brutally killing Bulawayo war veterans’ leader Cde Cain Nkala in 2001.
He is a former officer-in-charge of the Criminal Investigations Department in Beitbridge, who was fired following his conviction on extortion charges in 2007. He was jailed for 30 months for demanding a R10 000 bribe from a Congolese national he had arrested on fraud charges.
Masuna’s security company was hired by Blessing Ndiweni who had just received an eviction order to vacate the mine. Ndiweni was locked in a wrangle with Wilson Nyamhiwa over the ownership of the mine.
Prosecuting, Sifiso Ndlovu-Sibanda said on December 9, 2014 the High Court granted an order in favour of Nyamhiwa and two days later the Deputy Sheriff moved to the mine to evict Ndiweni’s workers and removing his mining equipment.
When Ndiweni heard of the eviction order, he rushed to Manifest Security Company and requested five security guards to be deployed to Zulu Mine
“Masuna joined his subordinates and they went to Zulu 8 Mine in Fort Rixon where his guards were deployed. On arrival at around midnight, he discovered that there was a dispute over the ownership of the mine,” said Ndlovu-Sibanda.
His client’s workers had been evicted from the mine and the new miner’s employees had taken over the premises. However, Ndiweni’s property and equipment was still being guarded by Masuna’s men.
“When the new tenants inquired who was approaching on hearing footsteps, Masuna identified himself as Ndiweni and indicated that he would shoot one of them,” said Ndlovu-Sibanda.
The new occupants fled in different directions, but Masuna fired a shot that hit Mudenda in the upper part of his chest and the bullet exited through the upper left hand arm.
Mudenda’s body was discovered the next morning at around 6AM. — @mashnets