BY RICHARD MUPONDE/MIRRIAM MANGWAYA
THE Supreme Court yesterday acquitted MDC Alliance activists Last Maengahama and Tungamirai Madzokere of the murder of a senior police officer after it ruled that their conviction by the High Court was wrong, ending their eight-year incarceration.
While Maengahama and Madzokere were still serving their extensive prison terms at the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, Musarurwa was at her home following her release on presidential clemency in 2018.
The High Court in 2013 found them guilty of a 2011 murder of Inspector Petros Mutedza during a riot at Glen View 3 Shopping Centre in Harare.
They appealed against the decision at the Supreme Court, but were denied bail pending appeal accorded to their co-accused.
Their arrest came after a group of police officers, who included Mutedza, besieged an MDC rally at the shopping centre, to break up the gathering.
Mutedza got separated from his colleagues, resulting in him being attacked by a mob. He allegedly died after being hit by a brick in the head.
Twenty-nine MDC activists were initially arrested, with others being convicted for lesser charges while Maengahama, Madzokere and Musarurwa were convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years by High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu.
However, in a unanimous decision yesterday, Justices Rita Makarau, Elizabeth Gwaunza and Susan Mavangira quashed the trio’s conviction and ordered Maengahama and Madzokere’s immediate release.
“No evidence was led to show that the appellants were present with the actual perpetrator when the deceased was felled by the brick that caused the mortal wound. In the absence of such evidence, the law clearly provided at the material time that the appellants could not be convicted of the murder of the deceased,” the judges said.
“In the absence of evidence that the appellants participated in the commission of the crime as provided for in the Code, they cannot be convicted. They are, therefore, entitled to an acquittal on the charge of murder.”
They further said Justice Bhunu had erred in arriving at his decision.
“Witness evidence did not tell a seamless story, was remarkably disjointed and contradictory in some respects. The evidence of a police officer who placed the accused at the crime scene, an Inspector Nyararai, was unsafe to rely on. Madzokere and Maengahama are entitled to their immediate release,” the judges added.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzai Mahere, posting on her Twitter handle, said the release of the pair was a dark day for justice as they spent life in prison for a crime they did not commit.
“What a sad day for justice. The Supreme Court today confirmed what we knew all along. Last Maengahama and Tungamirai Madzokere are innocent. They have been all along. Who will compensate them for eight years of imprisonment at the hands of a cruel regime,” she tweeted.
MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa said: “We are delighted that the comrades are vindicated and, as we stated from the beginning, they were innocent, they are innocent and they shall forever be innocent. But what pains is the fact that they have had to spend eight years in prison for an offence they did not commit, doing them irreparable harm, irretrievable damage and unjustified persecution.
”Justice delayed is justice denied. The fact that the process of appeal and remedial action is taking too much time signals that there is a danger and a hazard that needs to be eliminated. This brings to the fore part of the fundamental discussions in our country to make our systems and processes more efficient, to make our institutions more accountable and more amenable to dispensing justice.”
He added: “As a matter of circumstances, it’s only natural that there is a compensation to be paid, what I can term compensatory justice. You can’t just take away people’s time and say that was a mistake by one person.”
ZHLR, which represented the trio, said Justice Bhunu “was obliged to acquit them at the close of the State’s case when no evidence justifying their placement on their defence had been led and in doing so, denied them a fair trial”.