By Patrick Chitumba
The officer-in-charge of the Criminal Investigations Department in Gweru, Detective Inspector Leonard Gwandu, who is facing criminal abuse of office charges for allegedly releasing a stolen vehicle has said he had no obligation to consult anyone, hence he used his discretion.
Gwandu was last week put to his defence. He told the court that he was not aware that the vehicle in question, a Toyota Hilux double-cab valued at US$27 000 he released to Kwekwe businessman Mr Shepard Tundiya, was stolen in South Africa and smuggled into the country.
Gwandu pleaded not guilty before Gweru regional magistrate Mrs Phathekile Msipa.
He was remanded to April 8 for judgment on $1 000 bail.
In his defence, Gwandu said as the officer-in-charge of CID Gweru, he was simply exercising his discretion when he released the vehicle to Mr Tundiya.
Mr Tundiya was acquitted of possessing stolen property with regards to the vehicle and went on to claim it from Gwandu.
“After the acquittal of Mr Tundiya, I had no reason to hold on to the vehicle,” said Gwandu. “I believed Mr Tundiya was the rightful owner of the said vehicle. I had no obligation to consult anyone with regards to disposal of the exhibit because I’m the officer-in-charge and have powers to exercise my discretion.”
State witness Detective Sergeant Mlabeni Sibanda told the court that Gwandu released the vehicle to Mr Tundiya who had bought it from a Harare car dealer.
Det Sgt Sibanda said it was communicated to Gwandu that there were 10 such stolen South African-registered vehicles and Toyota South Africa and its clients were making follow-ups.
Of the 10 vehicles, Det Sgt Sibanda said two were in Gweru, including the one which was released to Mr Tundiya by Gwandu.
The court heard that releasing the stolen vehicle showed favour to Mr Tundiya since Gwandu had information to the effect that the vehicle had been stolen and smuggled into the country.
Det Sgt Sibanda said: “There are 10 such vehicles stolen in South Africa which are being tracked by Toyota South Africa. Two of these vehicles are in Gweru and the others are scattered around the country.
“We had made an appointment with Toyota South Africa together with its customers whose vehicles were stolen so that they come and identify the vehicles for possible repatriation to South Africa. This vehicle in question was supposed to be released to Toyota South Africa instead of Tundiya.”
The State alleges that on December 14 last year, Gwandu released the Toyota Hilux, which was confiscated from Mr Tundiya after it was discovered that it had been stolen from South Africa.
Allegations are that Mr Tundiya, who was arrested on October 16 last year for possessing the motor vehicle was acquitted at the Gweru Magistrates Court on December 13.
The following day, Gwandu released the vehicle to him, allegedly without following due procedure. The Herald