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‘Killer’ gold panners released on $300 bail

By Mashudu Netsianda

Two men allegedly linked to a gang of gold panners who went on a rampage attacking other miners in an alleged tribal war that resulted in the death of one victim in Inyathi, Bubi district, Matabeleland North have been released on $300 bail each.

File picture of part of 40 nabbed illegal miners arriving at the Inyathi circuit court in Bubi District
2017: File picture of part of 40 nabbed illegal miners arriving at the Inyathi circuit court in Bubi District

Nkosimayibongwe Sibanda (30) of Sauerstown suburb in Bulawayo and Andrew Sibanda (19) of Hojen village in Nkayi were allegedly part of about 50 artisanal miners who armed themselves with machetes and axes and went on a rampage, attacking other miners.

Some of the victims who were severely assaulted sustained serious injuries. Misheck Sibanda resultantly died upon admission to Mpilo Central Hospital.

Nkosimayibongwe and Andrew, through their lawyers Mr Liberty Mcijo of Liberty Mcijo and Associates, approached the Bulawayo High Court seeking bail pending trial citing the State as a respondent.

Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Evangelista Kabasa granted the two bail and ordered them to reside at their given addresses and not interfere with State witnesses.

Nkosimayibongwe was ordered to report once a week at Sauerstown Police Station while Andrew is to report at Gwelutshena Police Station in Nkayi district.

In their bail statement, the two men argued that the State had given a falsified and exaggerated background explanation of the circumstances surrounding Misheck’s death.

“The State has melodramatically described the alleged attack as an act of public violence, reign of terror and xenophobia against the deceased. The facts are shocking and far from the truth and the State has alleged that the attack was targeted at Shona speaking people, which allegation on its own is contrary to the circumstances surrounding the deceased’s death,” argued Mr Mcijo.

“The deceased, Misheck Sibanda was purely a Ndebele speaking person who was a local in the area. Surely, the explanation and allegations being proffered by the State of the accused persons’ agenda and reason for allegedly assaulting the deceased are deceitful and a clear malicious endeavour to taint the applicants’ innocence and frustrate their admission to bail.”

The two accused persons said the evidence against them was manufactured. They argued that there were no compelling reasons warranting their continued detention.

“Whatever fears of abscondment by the applicants that the State may harbour can be allayed by placing stringent conditions that this honourable court may deem fit,” said Mr Mcijo.

The State, which was represented by Mr Khumbulani Ndlovu said there was a strong prima facie case against the two accused persons.

“The deceased was murdered in an attack that bears hallmarks of xenophobia, anarchy and reign of terror. In casu, the court is urged to make a specific finding that severity of the offence is in such circumstances, sufficient a reason to deny the applicants bail, as they of their own volition constituted themselves into a gang that went about wreaking havoc,” said Mr Ndlovu.

“The applicants have not discharged the onus on them and demonstrated that it is in the interests of justice that they are released on bail pending trial. There is a strong prima facie case against both applicants.”

He said the accused persons were a threat to their community hence if released on bail, they were likely to continue with their acts of violence.

According to court papers, on November 28 at around 5PM, the two accused persons were allegedly part of a marauding gang of gold panners armed with an assortment of weapons which included machetes, stones and axes.

The gang was on a witch-hunt for Shona speaking people they accused of invading their gold rich area.

As part of their mission, they left Dodolo Mine in Inyathi and went to Marumisa Mine before proceeding to Merlyn North Mine in the same area where they found Misheck going about his business.

They pounced on the deceased whom they singled out as one of their targets. Nkosimayibongwe together with one accomplice identified as Sampro who is still at large, were the first to strike Misheck with stones.

When the deceased tried to flee, Andrew struck him on the head and he bled profusely before he collapsed.

The accused persons were restrained by the mine manager from continuing with the attack. The deceased was taken to Mpilo Central Hospital where he later succumbed to the injuries.

A report was made to the police leading to the accused persons’ arrest. The Chronicle