Zvikomborero Parafini, Court Reporter
The nine-member gang led by Musa Taj Abdul was Tuesday convicted of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition after the presiding magistrate ruled that the State proved its case beyond reasonable doubt as they have all proven to be guilty by association.
Abdul and his accomplices Liberty Mupamhanga, Prince Makodza, Godfrey Mupamhanga, Charles Lundu, Rudolph Kanhanga, Innocent Jairos, Tapiwa Mangoma and Carrington Marasha were convicted after a full trial by Harare provincial magistrate Barbra Mateko.
The nine who were arrested in Beitbridge pleaded not guilty and disputed ever being in physical possession of the firearm in question and were gathered at the house in question to have a business meeting as they are all in the transport business when the police pounced on them.
“The nine accused persons pleaded not guilty and through their legal representatives disputed ever being in physical possession of the gun and ammunition and don’t know how they were recovered or implicated and they had gathered to have a meeting as they are all in the business of transport.
“Mangoma claimed that he was a police officer and a clearing agent at the Beitbridge border post and stated that when the police stormed into his place no search was done but the charges were malicious because of his association with suspected criminals.
“It was the state’s duty to lead evidence to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and they opened their case by leading evidence from Joseph Chari stationed at ZRP Beitbridge main post who told the court that he knew Mangoma as a work mate and they received information that the gang was on the run and had been seen at Mashaire business centre and Marasha was followed from the shops to number1184 Dulibadzimu and when he was about to get in the gate he saw the police and whistled to alert the others who tried to run away but were surrounded and arrested after warning shots were fired.
“When the police got in Mangoma had a black satchel and he tried to hide it in a laundry basket and when the police searched the bag they found the guns and ammunition, all this was corroborated by the second witness,” she said.
“Of the evidence there are facts that are not in default and these are that they were at 1184 Dulibadzimu, they were at Mangoma’s place of residence and he’s a police officer, they are not licensed holders of a firearm and that the pistol was tendered before this court so what was supposed to be established was whether they were in illegal possession of the firearm.
“Illegal possession in this jurisdiction refers physical possession and the mental possession of the possessor hence joint possession of an article is possible, the court noted that the first witnesses corroborated each other on how they followed Marasha and how they had recovered the fire arm on the day
“If they were having a genuine meeting they weren’t supposed to run away causing the police to use force, nothing was produced to confirm that they were in to transport business and there was no need to run away f it was a genuine business meeting, the onus was on them to prove that they were not illegal possession.
“It is the court’s finding that they are all guilty by possession failing to explain why they were at that particular place or why they ran away when approached by the police, how they reacted when the police approached the house in Dulibadzimu and the requirements of the doctrine of common purpose are being present at the scene secondly the knowledge of the criminal act and the association with the perpetrators.
“There’s no inference that can be drawn by the court but to think that they wanted to commit crimes, the State managed to prove its case and they are found guilty as charged,” she said.
The gang was deferred to today for sentence because one of their lawyers Concillia Mahiya was not in court to assist in mitigation.
Francesca Mukumbiri and Oscar Madhume appeared for the State.