By Mary Taruvinga
JUDGEMENT in the case in which jailed cleric, Robert Martin Gumbura and eight other inmates stand accused of inciting food riots in a bid to escape from Chikurubi Maximum Prison has been pushed to the 16th of this month because the magistrate was away.
This became the third time ruling on the inmates’ application for discharge was postponed after the State sealed its case which has been running for the past four years.
The nine 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.
Gumbura, who is serving 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 defence also argued that State witnesses gave contradicting statements.
“One testimony treating accused one (Gumbura) as an inciter while the rest of the prisoners are ‘incitees’ is not only unreliable but contrary to the state outline,” said the lawyers.
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.
The State alleges that allegations against the inmates arose February 13, 2015 at around 9am, when the inmates refused to eat porridge which had no sugar.
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 one of the officials.
Hell then broke lose when the prisoners realised they were about to be served sadza and cowpeas.