10 May 2013

Zimbabwe: Thabani Mpofu Has Case to Answer, Says Magistrate

The director of research in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's office, Thabani Mpofu, accused of flouting the country's firearms law, had his application for discharge dismissed Wednesday. Mpofu is accused of failing to renew a firearm certificate and keeping it in a non-secure place. In dismissing the application magistrate Ms Anita Tshuma ruled that Mpofu had a case to answer and should be put to his defence. She said the State had managed to prove a prima-facie case against him.

Ms Tshuma remanded the matter to May 20 for the defence to open its case.

Through his lawyers Mr Alec Muchadehama and Mr Chris Mhike, Mpofu had made an application for discharge at the close of the State's case arguing that he had no case to answer.

He said the firearm which forms the subject matter was seized during an unlawful search, and should be excluded from the evidence before the court.

He added that the police did not, as the search warrant required, proceed to search his house for articles which were believed to be concerned in the commission of an offence, as required by section 49 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.

"It is thus submitted that the firearm and all evidence arising from its seizure should be excluded from this court. That being so, there is no evidence upon which a reasonable court might convict the accused before this court, and the application for a discharge should be allowed."

"In the present matter, no cogent State case has been established. No meaningful or relevant evidence came from the witnesses to support the charges," read part of the application.

Appearing for the State Mr Jonathan Murombedzi opposed the application for lack of merit.

Mr Murombedzi said the evidence heard in court showed that the police just stumbled upon the firearm while searching articles in respect of another case adding that it was not prudent for the police officers to leave the firearm and go back to apply for a search warrant under the circumstances.

He also said the argument that the police had no search warrant mentioning a firearm was baseless.

"To exclude the evidence of the firearm on the basis that the police had no search warrant specifically mentioning a firearm would make a mockery of our justice system.

"The evidence from the witnesses was very clear and they withstood the cross-examination by the defence. The police testified that the wardrobe doors were made of wood which is not very strong and had no locks. The wardrobe does not fit within the definition of a secure place," he said.

Charges against against Mpofu arose when detectives searching for documents at his premises stumbled on, and confiscated a firearm that was hidden under a pile of clothes in the house.

When police asked to see a certificate for the weapon, Mpofu allegedly failed to produce one leading to his arrest.

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