By Mashudu Netsianda
MDC Alliance Makokoba legislator Mr James Sithole together with two accomplices who were accused of embezzling US$4 250 and R10 000 belonging to a local burial society he chaired, were yesterday acquitted by the courts.
Sithole (45), Jacob Manyange (64), Raymond Gombedza (47) all from Makokoba suburb and Manyara Muzamani (49) of Cowdray Park appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Mr Shepherd Munjanja facing theft of trust property charges.
The four men were alleged to have diverted to their personal use R10 000 which belonged to Makokoba Burial Society after collecting the money from the treasurer Ms Margaret Sibindi.
They were also accused of squandering US$4 250, which was restituted by Ms Sibindi following her conviction and sentence for dipping her fingers into the coffers of the burial society.
The burial society was founded in 2010 by MDC party supporters in the constituency to assist members during funerals.
Mr Munjanja acquitted Sithole, Gombeza and Muzamani on both counts. He however, dismissed Manyange’s application for discharge at the close of the State case and placed him on his defence in relation to the second count.
In acquitting the three men, Mr Munjanja ruled that the State failed to prove a prima facie case against them.
“The State witnesses did not give convincing evidence and clearly, the State case was like flogging a dead horse. Accordingly, the three accused persons are discharged at the close of the State case and acquitted,” he said.
It was the State’s case that between 2010 and 2011, the accused persons acted in common purpose and sent Manyange to collect R10 000 which was being kept by Ms Sibindi who was the treasurer of the burial society at the time.
It was, however, not stated in court papers why the accused persons had requested the money from Ms Sibindi.
They allegedly converted the money to their personal use and the money was not recovered.
In 2011, Ms Sibindi, who was responsible for keeping the money, stole US$4 250 from the burial society and she was arrested and taken to court and convicted of theft.
She was ordered to restitute the money and she complied with the court order by paying the money through the Clerk of Court at the Bulawayo Magistrate’s Court.
The prosecutor, Mr Leonard Chile, said Manyange went to the Clerk of Court at Tredgold building where he signed for the money and took the cash.
“Manyange signed and collected the money which was restituted by Margaret Sibindi. The four accused persons, acting in common purpose, converted the money to their personal use,” said Mr Chile.
In her testimony, Ms Sibindi told the court that the four accused persons embezzled the funds belonging to the society.
Mr Prince Butshe Dube of Mathonsi Law Chambers represented the accused persons. The Chronicle