By Mashudu Netsianda
The High Court has dismissed an application for bail pending trial by three Gwanda-based game scouts who allegedly fatally assaulted a poacher and dumped his body in a dam in West Nicholson.
Phumulani Sibanda (25) and Crispen Ndlovu (41) both of Filabusi as well as Sunday Moyo (47) of Mwenezi are each facing a murder charge in connection with the death of Peter Mpofu (56) of Mwenezi.
The three who are employed at Bubiana Conservancy Ranch in West Nicholson, ambushed Mpofu together with his two colleagues while they were poaching fish at a dam at the ranch.
They fatally assaulted Mpofu and threw his body into a dam to conceal the offence. Mpofu’s colleagues escaped.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese dismissed an application for bail by Sibanda, Ndlovu and Moyo through their lawyers Titan Law Chambers.
Justice Makonese said the three applicants were not suitable candidates for bail.
“Where applicants in a bail application seek to mislead the court by removing themselves from the scene of the crime and tell a lie about the cause of death, such applicants should be deemed not suitable candidates for bail,” he said.
In dismissing the application, the judge said the trio was a flight risk.
“There is a likelihood that the applicants may very well abscond if granted bail pending trial. In the event of a conviction, the applicants are most likely to face a lengthy custodial sentence which would therefore induce them to abscond once granted bail. In the result, the applicants are not suitable candidates for bail pending trial and their application is hereby dismissed,” ruled Justice Makonese.
In their bail statements, the three accused persons are denying the charge, arguing they were framed by some illegal settlers involved in poaching activities.
“It is important to mention that there is generally friction between settlers on the opposite bank of the river who are well known for poaching and game rangers. There is a real possibility that this could be a case of framing the three accused persons as a way of warding off game rangers,” argued the trio’s lawyers.
In papers before the court, it is alleged that Sibanda, Ndlovu and Moyo, who are game scouts, found Mpofu and his two colleagues at Boulder Creek Dam in Bubiana Conservancy Ranch preparing to cast fishing nets into the dam. The accused persons allegedly ambushed Mpofu and his colleagues who fled from the scene.
The accused managed to apprehend Mpofu whom they assaulted all over the body resulting in his death. They threw his body into the dam and left the scene.
The body was found floating in the dam on April 5 by a passer-by and it was retrieved from the water the following day.
The deceased sustained a swollen right eye, injuries on the left side of his pelvis, swollen penis and testicles. Mr Mpofu did not have any signs of having swallowed water indicating that he was dead before he was thrown into the water. The Chronicle