By Mary Taruvinga
A Harare magistrate has deferred judgment in the case in which jailed cleric Robert Martin Gumbura and eight other inmates are being tried for inciting food riots in prison to the 10th of this month.
The court pushed the dates on the basis the both the State and the defense served it with submissions late.
Gumbura and his co-accused are being charged for inciting a food riot inside prison walls in a bid to escape jail.
Harare magistrate Francis Mapfumo is expected to hand down his judgment on the inmates’ application for discharge next week, a month after the State closed its case.
Gumbura, who is serving a 40-year imprisonment for rape, was charged along with fellow inmates Blessing Chiduke (25), Lucky Mhungu (38), Taurai Dodzo (47), Thomas Chacha (37), Thulani Chizema (32), Jacob Sibanda (28), Elijah Vhumbunu (38) and Lucky Matambanadzo (39).
They have been on trial since 2015.
Seeking acquittal, the suspects through their lawyers, Lovemore Madhuku and Tapson Dzvetero argued that the State has failed to prove its case. The defense also argued that State witnesses gave contradicting statements.
“One testimony treating accused one (Gumbura) as an inciter while the rest of the prisoners are ‘incites’ is not only unreliable but contrary to the state outline,” said the lawyers.
“The evidence adduced on behalf of the State is so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable court might safely act on it.”
Of the suspects, only Vhumbunu is now out of custody after being granted bail following his completion of a 10-year imprisonment for robbery.
Their trial dragged for over four years after the state had lined up 24 witnesses to testify against them but only four had testified in three years.
However, some witnesses were later dropped to speed up trial.
Gumbura and his accomplices are being accused of masterminding a foiled jailbreak from Chikurubi Maximum Prison in 2015.
They are all facing charges of attempting to escape from lawful custody, incitement in aggravating circumstances or alternatively, conspiracy in aggravating circumstances or malicious damage to property.
According to the state, “On February 13, 2015 at around 9am, the inmates refused to eat porridge which had no sugar.
“They demanded to see the officer-in-charge, a Chief Superintendent Marange, who then sent his deputy, a Superintendent Dumbura to address them.”
It is also alleged that they complained about relish since they were allegedly being fed with cow-peas and a popular local brand of spices mixed with hot water.
Reza alleged that the inmates pushed out the food containers which had been brought for lunch, refusing to be addressed by Dumbura.
Dumbura left the Complex’s C Hall and went to D Hall, where he ordered for food to be brought in and served to those who wanted to eat.
Hell then broke lose when the prisoners realised they were about to be served sadza and cowpeas.
Some prison guards sustained injuries and over five inmates lost their lives during the riot.