By Patrick Chitumba
A Gweru Regional Court has issued a warrant of arrest against the officer-in-charge of CID Gweru, Detective Inspector Leonard Gwandu, who absconded from court on judgment day yesterday.
Gwandu is facing criminal abuse of office charges for allegedly releasing a vehicle stolen from South Africa that was being held by the police as an exhibit.
He was supposed to appear before Gweru Regional Magistrate Mrs Phathekile Msipa for judgement.
Gwandu was however in no show when his name was called three times by the court orderly before the State led by Mr Kelvin Guveya applied for a warrant of arrest to be issued against him.
Mrs Msipa issued the warrant of arrest.
Gwandu pleaded not guilty to the charge when the matter commenced in February.
He was remanded out of custody on $1 000 bail.
State witness, Detective Sergeant Mlabeni Sibanda said Gwandu released the stolen Toyota Hilux double cab valued at US$27 000 to Kwekwe businessman Shepherd 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.
“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,” Det Sgt Sibanda said.
“We had made an appointment with Toyota South Africa together with its customers whose vehicles were stolen from them 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.”
Gwandu’s lawyer Mr Nomore Hlabano argued that his client might have erred administratively — which should have been an internal matter and not a criminal matter which is now before the court.
The State alleges that on December 14, last year, Gwandu released the Toyota Hilux valued at US$27 000, which had been confiscated from Mr Tundiya after it was discovered that it had been stolen from South Africa.
Allegations are that Mr Tundiya, who had been arrested on October 16 last year in connection with the motor vehicle, was acquitted at the Gweru Magistrates Court on December 13 but no order was made concerning the disposal of the vehicle.
The following day Gwandu allegedly released the stolen vehicle to the businessman without following due procedure.
The State further alleges that the car was stolen in South Africa from one Thomas Blom of CMH Toyota and was being investigated by Alberton Police Station in South Africa under case number 233/11/2017.
The State said the vehicle was supposed to be handed to South African police but the accused person handed it to Mr Tundiya.
Mr Tundiya told the court that he bought the vehicle from a car dealer, Mr Patrick Mutodi, in Harare.
He said he was also a victim in the event that the car was stolen. The Chronicle