Bull theft top cop loses ap­peal

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News - Mashudu Net­sianda

THE High Court has dis­missed an ap­peal against con­vic­tion and sen­tence by a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer cur­rently serv­ing a nine-year jail term for sneak­ing into a Ma­tobo Re­search In­sti­tute Farm and steal­ing a bull. Washington Muchenu (42), an As­sis­tant In­spec­tor sta­tioned at Mzi­likazi Po­lice Sta­tion in Bu­l­awayo, slaugh­tered the breed­ing bull val­ued at $4 000 in the mid­dle of the night on July 31 in 2014 and packed the meat in bags.

He then loaded 194 kilo­grammes of beef into his car and pro­ceeded to an un­known des­ti­na­tion.Muchenu, who had served in the po­lice force for 19 years, de­nied the al­le­ga­tions but Plumtree mag­is­trate, Mr Li­vard Phile­mon con­victed him due to over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence.

Muchenu through his lawyer, Mr Stephen Zvinavakobvu Le­gal Prac­ti­tion­ers, filed an ap­peal at the Bu­l­awayo High Court chal­leng­ing Mr Phile­mon’s de­ci­sion.Jus­tice Martin Makonese, who was sit­ting with Jus­tice Nokuthula Moyo dur­ing the crim­i­nal ap­peals court, dis­missed the ap­peal.

“The con­clu­sion from the ev­i­dence ad­duced by the state is that the only rea­son­able inference that may be drawn is that the ap­pel­lant (Muchenu) was seen car­ry­ing stolen meat. It is the court’s view that ap­pel­lant’s jour­ney to the farm was not an in­no­cent ven­ture, but his sole mis­sion was to col­lect stolen meat,” said Jus­tice Makonese.

“You can­not drive through a farm, which is a pri­vate prop­erty, with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing asked to stop and be searched by se­cu­rity guards. In the re­sult, the ap­peal against con­vic­tion and sen­tence is dis­missed.”

Muchenu, in his grounds of ap­peal, ar­gued that the sen­tence was a glar­ing mis­di­rec­tion on the part of the mag­is­trate. Mr Zvinavakobvu said the state case was weak and con­tra­dic­tory.

“The state ev­i­dence was weak and con­tra­dic­tory and was based on spec­u­la­tion. The court a quo erred in con­vict­ing the ap­pel­lant when he was sim­ply a hired driver who had no knowl­edge and could not have fore­seen that he was trans­port­ing stolen beef,” ar­gued the lawyer.

Mr Whis­per Mabaudhi, for the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity, which was cited as the re­spon­dent, said the state proved its case be­yond rea­son­able doubt.“It is sub­mit­ted that court a quo did not err in view of the fact that there was no spe­cial cir­cum­stances in sen­tenc­ing the ap­pel­lant for nine years. Where­fore the re­spon­dent prays that the ap­peal be dis­missed for lack of merit,” said Mr Mabaudhi.

In pass­ing sen­tence Mr Phile­mon lashed out at the cop for his reck­less be­hav­iour.

“As a po­lice of­fi­cer you’re ex­pected to be a cus­to­dian of the law but you’re, in­stead, at the fore­front of break­ing it. Stock­theft cases are among the preva­lent crimes in this part of the re­gion and peo­ple like you’re not mak­ing ef­forts of re­duc­ing these cases,” he said.-@mash­nets

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