TWO Mashwede Diesel workers, who were accused of bribing Zanu-PF Harare provincial youth chairperson Cde Jim Kunaka, were acquitted on Monday after a Harare magistrate ruled the State had failed to prove its case.
Isheanesu Maribha (34) and Gwezuva Changamire (35) were accused of offering Cde Kunaka US$5 000 bribe to allow the resumption of construction work of a filling station and a food court at Mashwede Diesel Services at corner Harare Street and Cripps Road.
In acquitting the pair, Harare magistrate Ms Nomsa Sabarauta said the money was protection fees and not a bribe.
"One or both of you unlawfully gave US$5 000 to Jim Kunaka the chairperson of Mbare Residents Committee as an inducement reward so that he would ignore concerns of the Mbare residents," said Ms Sabarauta.
"The defence counsel produced evidence that showed the land had been acquired lawfully. The complainant who is Kunaka told the court he had obtained permission to hold a lawful demonstration at the service station but no such evidence was tendered.
"The accused did not pay the money as bribery money, but as protection fees."
The two, who were being represented by Mr Augustine Chizikani, had denied bribing Cde Kunaka, arguing that they were coerced to pay the money as protection fees.
The State alleged construction at the service station was contested by the residents association.
Residents were allegedly told the stand was going to be used as an extension of Matapi police station.
On June 25 last year, Cde Kunaka was approached by Shepherd Hwande also known as Gunpowder who was acting on behalf of the duo.
Hwande asked Cde Kunaka to use his influence and convince local residents not to demonstrate against the development of the area, the court was told.
Hwande, the court heard, offered Cde Kunaka US$15 000, which he said was from Maribha and Changamire.
Afterwards, the duo allegedly called Cde Kunaka and asked to meet him at Crowne Plaza Hotel where they were eventually arrested after giving him US$5 000.