By Bulawayo Correspondent
PROMINENT Bulawayo political activist, Josphat “Mzaca” Ngulube (34) and three others, were Friday sentenced to seven years in prison for public violence related to the January civil unrest.
Bulawayo magistrate, Tinashe Tashaya suspended one year on condition that the four will not commit a similar crime within six years.
About two weeks ago, Tashaya convicted Ngulube, Fortune Masuku (29), Melusi Moyo (32) and Otilia Sibanda (34).
This was after he found them guilty of burning cars and damaging Eva Bitu, the former Zanu PF Bulawayo provincial women’s league chair, during the violent anti-government protests.
The four have been languishing at Khami Maximum Prison after the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) failed to bring them to court for sentence several times due to transport challenges.
In his ruling, magistrate Tashaya said the four deserved long custodial sentences because the violence referred to brought the country to a standstill.
“The court cannot be lenient. I could have considered community service but the crime they committed is very serious,” ruled Tashaya.
The convicts’ lawyers Nqobani Sithole of the Abammeli Lawyers for Human Rights and Simbarashe Chavaura from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said they were going to make an urgent bail application at the High Court pending appeal.
“We are really shocked by this ruling. The facts which the magistrates relied upon in coming up with this sentence like his assertion that the four were involved in the internet shutdown was never mentioned in the court proceedings. Anyway, we are going to apply for bail pending appeal at the High Court,” said Sithole.
Appearing for the state, Jetro Mada told the court that on 14 January at about 7 am, the four, 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.
He said the damaged cars had a total value of US$95 000.
Last month, another Bulawayo magistrate Lizwe Jamela acquitted Ngulube over charges of contravening the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).
Ngulube, who contested last year’s parliamentary elections as an independent candidate in Bulawayo South Constituency before joining the MDC early this year, was facing charges of convening a meeting without notifying relevant authorities.
In acquitting Ngulube, Jamela ruled that the evidence led by the State fell short of the threshold of establishing a prima facie case.