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Parents left in tears as child killer is sentenced to community service

Let down by justice system ... The parents of the late Tinotenda Regina Chikumbu

10/05/2017 00:00:00
by Mary Taruvinga - Court Reporter

SHRILL cries pierced the mid-afternoon silence that normally engulfs Harare Magistrates’ Courts, drawing the attention of a small crowd on Wednesday last week.

The distraught cries were the bitter laments of a father and mother who had just listened to magistrate Ruramai Chitumbura sentencing the killer of their child to community service.

Kombi driver Farasi Masawu, 32, had been convicted for culpable homicide over the death of 11-year-old Tinotenda Regina Chikumbu.

The little girl, along with a man identified as Shumba, died on the spot in February this year after Masawu was involved in a head-on-collision in the capital at corner King George and Cock Road.

Both victims were Masawu’s passengers as he tried to flee pursuing traffic cops, driving recklessly through red traffic lights and intersections resulting in the crash.

After the accident, the chasing police officers also vanished from the scene and, curiously, have never been identified.

Last Wednesday magistrate Chitumbura found Masawu guilty and sentenced him to 420 hours’ community service.

The minor’s crushed parents wailed openly and loudly as they expressed their bitter disappointment. They hoped for justice from the country’s courts but were told that they had “no right to punish the killer because they are not God”.

Masawu, a neighbour, has also never bothered to visit them and apologise for the tragedy.

And, to add insult to their hurt, he continues to drive public transport vehicles while their lives have effectively come to a halt as they grieve and try to cope with their loss.

Speaking to NewZimbabwe.com, the parents said Masawu, showed no remorse and would publicly brag that “he has connections with the police, prosecutors and magistrates and would never set his foot in prison”.

“How do I heal if I’m going to be seeing him every day of my life, freely mingling with the public? We never confronted him. We never reported a case against him.

“This was a state’s case and we only expected the courts to give us justice, not this…,” said Tinotenda’s sobbing mother Tapiwa Kanembirira, 39.

The family appeared in court clad in red t-shirts emblazoned with their child’s image and inscribed with the words ‘In Loving Memory of Tino Regina’.

United in grief ... The families of the two victims outside the Harare courts


They said magistrate Chitumbura’s ruling shattered their confidence in the country’s justice system.

“We are even more pained. It was going to be better if the driver was sympathetic.,” said Kanembiri.

“Since the accident occurred, we expected him to come and give his condolences but he never showed any remorse. His bragging indeed confirms that he has connections with those handling court cases and also that the justice system is corrupt.”

Tinotenda’s brother was fortunate to survive the accident but the family is still struggling to settle his medical bills at Parirenyatwa hospital.

Worse still, the boy still suffers emotionally as he struggles with the trauma of having watched his sister die in that horrific crash as they were on their way to school.

Meanwhile, in addition to culpable homicide, Masawu was also charged with negligent driving.

The negligence rap included “driving against red traffic lights, failure to look out for the road ahead, failing to stop when he realised that an accident was imminent and speeding against circumstances”.

He had denied all counts but was convicted after a full trial.

Magistrate Chitumbura sentenced him to 18 months’ imprisonment of which 6 months were suspended for five years on good behaviour.

A further 12 months were suspended on condition that he performs 420 hours of community service. He was also barred from driving for two years.

The father of Shumba, one of the accident victims

Tinotenda’s father, Samson Makaripe, 40, said “justice was not done from day one”.

“We were surprised when he was given bail after causing the death of two people. It was not in dispute that he was speeding and that he was fleeing from the police,” said the distraught father.

“Again, this case took too long to be finalised. The prosecutor who handled the case was evasive … I had to push for this day to come.

“I had to approach even the area prosecutor so that our case could be heard as it was postponed several at State’s instance.”

He added, “We thought what he (the driver) needed was to reform and that’s why we have jails. He bragged that we would never to see justice.

“He said our feet would become swollen by walking to court and his words have just been confirmed.”

After Masawu was sentenced, the family members could still be seen at the court ground as they were trying to file a complaint against the magistrate as well as gain access to the area prosecutor and chief magistrate.

“It’s so painful to lose a child after spending 11 good years with her; years filled with sweet memories. We had many plans for her but our dreams were shattered. The magistrate just made it worse,” the father, Makaripe, said.

“We wonder if she (the magistrate) ever made an effort to revisit previous similar cases to get an appreciation of how such cases were handled. Her ruling left us with so many questions and we are not happy.”

According to Makaripe, Tinotenda was a bright pupil at Warren Park 4 Primary School. He said memories of his school run to pick her up are hounding him on a daily basis.

His family and that of Shumba, who was also killed in the same accident, have since become close after endless trips to the courts.

Said Shumba’s father; “If he (Masawu) compensated us it could have been better but he wasn’t moved.

“He has no conscience and he has no shame at all. My son wedded last year and he left a 2 months old baby.

“My widowed daughter-in-law stays just two houses from Masawu’s place but he never cared to say a simple sorry. It hurts that someone could treat the death of a human being like slaughter of a chicken.

“Kombi drivers are causing untold suffering to the public and, with this kind of court ruling, they will become wilder and people will be killed every day."

Recently, there was public uproar after another kombi driver, Wadzanai Mabika, who fatally hit a Girls High School student was jailed for six years.

Members of the public complained that magistrate Elijah Makomo was too lenient despite prosecutors proving that the driver had been negligent, resulting in the death on the spot of Jocylene Gomba and one Odwell Mabanga who later died at Parirenyatwa hospital.

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