January protests: Fuel shortages scupper MDC activists sentencing

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

A lawyer representing convicted Bulawayo MDC activist, Josphat Mzaca Ngulube (34) and three other people on Monday resisted Magistrate Tinashe Tashaya’s suggestion to deliver his sentence at Khami Maximum Prison after the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) failed to bring the convicts to court for sentence.

Last week Tashaya convicted Ngulube , Fortune Masuku (29), Melusi Moyo (32) and Otilia Sibanda (34) on charges of malicious damage to property.

The activists were accused of burning cars and breaking several windows to a house belonging to former Zanu PF Bulawayo women’s league chairperson Eva Bitu during the violent January protests this year.

The convicts’  lawyer, Nqobani Sithole told New that following ZPCS failure to bring his clients to court,  the Magistrate had suggested that the sentence be delivered at the Prison.

“There was a suggestion by the Magistrate to deliver his sentence at Khami Prison but I did not like that idea. The sentence is supposed to be delivered in an open court,” said Sithole.

“ The question is if ZPCS knew that they did not have fuel to bring my clients to court why then did they take them to Khami Prison instead of keeping them at nearby Grey Prisons,” said Sithole.

The sentence was postponed to Tuesday after the state pledged to engage ZPCS to bring the convicts to court.

Sithole said his clients will appeal both conviction and sentence.

“We are definitely going to apply for bail at the High Court pending appeal. We are just waiting for the Magistrate’s sentence,” he said.

Appearing for the state, Jetro Mada told the court that on 14 January at about 7am, the accused persons, acting in connivance with 100 others, unlawfully blocked the free movement of traffic at an intersection along Sizinda Road and Nketa Drive.

Mada told the court that the mob 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,” said Mada.

Mada said the cars have a total value of US$95 000.