Zimbabwe: Taj Abdul Gang Convicted On Gun Charge

Senior Court Reporter

Nine armed robbers were yesterday convicted of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, the same weapons believed to have been used in a number of robberies around the country.

Sentence was postponed after prosecutors Mrs Francesca Mukumbiri and Mr Oscar Madhume yesterday asked for time to search for criminal records of Musa Taj Abdul, Liberty Mupamhanga, Price Makodza, Godfrey Mupamhanga, Charles Lundu, Rudolph Kanhanga, Innocent Jairos, Tapiwa Mangoma and Carrington Marasha.

Any relevant previous criminal convictions will assist the court in coming up with an appropriate sentence for the nine.

Harare magistrate Mrs Barbra Mateko convicted the nine after noting that they were acting in common purpose which led them to possess a 9mm Vector Z88 pistol with serial numbers obliterated, 11 live cartridges for the same weapon and 20 12-bore shotgun cartridges.

They were arrested at Tapiwa Mangoma's house in Beitbridge in August last year after a police raid.

In her judgment, Mrs Mateko noted that the suspected armed robbers lied when they claimed to have been raided by police while in the midst of a business meeting.

In their defence, Taj Abdul and his colleagues told the court that they were in the transport business and were raided after convening to strategise on new ways of conducting their business in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"They said they had gathered for a business meeting since they were in transport. Abdul and Godfrey Mupamhanga said they were not aware that there was firearm.

"Tapiwa Mangoma said he was surprised to see the police at his house and said he was employed at Home Affairs as a police officer and clearing agent at Beitbrige Border Post.

"He claimed that no searches were done at his house, but he was only being fixed by police since he was linked with suspects. A witness, Joseph Chari, who is a police officer, told the court that he knew him (Mangoma) as a workmate and confirmed that he was the one who had a satchel and threw it into a basket when they arrived at his house," she said.

Mrs Mateko said witness testimonies of police officers -- Chari Tobias Chatikobo and Ronald Musekiwa -- were corroborated when they testified in court and pointed out that the nine were acting in common purpose and knew of the existence of the firearm and ammunition in question.

She said the testimony of Innocent Dube, an expert from CID forensic department also cemented testimonies of the police officers during trial.

"Carrington Marasha said he was not present by the time police went to the house saying he was sick. It was not in dispute that they were all at the house and also not in dispute that Mangoma is a police officer and they had no licence to possess the firearm.

"The court noted that the witnesses corroborated on how they tracked Marasha to the house. If they were on a genuine meeting and they were not avoiding something illegal, why was force used to contain the situation? The onus was on them to prove that they were into transport business and nothing was tendered.

Marasha said he was in hospital and documents tendered showed that he was not hospitalised on that date of August 24, 2020. Clearly they were not doing anything legitimate. The only inference drawn by the court is that their meeting was not legitimate and had articles to commit offence.

"They were at the same place and had same intentions and there is no any other inference other than committing the offence. Witnesses corroborated that they were in possession of the firearm and inconsistencies in the type of the pistol were cured by expert evidence. Looking at doctrine of common purpose and failure to stop when police attempted to arrest them shows they acted in common purpose," said Mrs Mateko before convicting them.

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