Three years for murdering MDC –T activist, 65 yrs for stocktheft

OPINION – In Zimbabwe, cattle are better-off than their owner because, if they get stolen, the thief will get 65 years in jail but if their owner is murdered, the accused will get only three years. The sentences are based on two recent court cases hopefully, they are not representative of the entire justice system in the Southern African country.

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In the first case, three men were last year sentenced to 20 years each after being convicted of stealing cattle from a farm in Marondera, according to the State-owned Herald published on 26 April 2010. On hearing the sentence, one of the convicts reportedly collapsed in shock. The total number of cattle stolen is not clear in the press report however, the number delivered on one occasion to a buyer was given as 18.

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The paper said, provincial magistrate Ms Sithuthuke Sibanda sentenced former policeman Knowledge Zaranyika (28) and Frank Masiye (19) to 25 years in jail apiece after convicting them on nine counts of stock theft. She however, suspended five years of the sentence on condition of good behaviour.

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The third accused, Steven Masiyazi (age not given) was sentenced to an effective nine years in prison. The three had denied the charges when they first appeared in court. Their co-accused, farmer and businessman Collins Boka of March Farm, was already serving time for stock theft. Boka had pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 65 years in prison with 20 yrs conditionally suspended.

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The second case is that of a gang of 5 Zanu-pf ‘hitmen’ who ‘have been jailed’ according to Zimdiaspora on 31st May 2011 (no date given for the sentencing) for three years each for the murder of an MDC-T activist.

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Tawanda Takai (28), Nhamo Phiri (42), Givemore Mwandila (26), Cleto Marezva (24) and Wellington Masola (28) were ‘thrown into prison’after being convicted by Gweru magistrate, Josph Mabeza for murdering Charles Sibanda.

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The gang killed Sibanda on March 1, 2002 in Zhombe at the height of the 2002 presidential elections in which Robert Mugabe of Zanu-pf narrowly beat Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC.

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The Zanu-pf ‘hitmen’abducted Sibanda from his homestead before force-marching him to their base where they severely assaulted him with sticks, whips and other blunt objects. Sibanda died the following morning and a postmorten confirmed that he succumbed to injuries sustained during the assault.

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The Magistrate, ‘slapped the gang with a combined 15 years jail term of which each will save an effective three year period’ (Zimdiaspora, 31/05/11).

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The disparity in sentencing is shocking that you are left wondering whether one of the sentences is a political statement or it was just some people’s lucky day in court. Making sense of Zimbabwean justice system is no easy task. Is this how the regime has resolved to address impunity?

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 Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London, zimanalysis2009@gmail.com

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