By Mashudu Netsianda
A top cop who was recently acquitted on charges of allegedly stealing guns, more than 180 live bullets and an assortment of related weaponry from the police armoury has taken his boss, Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga to court challenging an imminent disciplinary hearing.
David Fugao (age not given), the officer-in-charge of the ZRP provincial armoury in Matabeleland North, was jointly accused with Wonder Tawanda Karamba (33) and Francis Chaterera (39), of theft and criminal abuse of duty as public officers.
They were arrested last year in March after detectives from the Criminal Investigations Department homicide section received information that there were suspicious movements of firearms at the armoury.
The detectives through investigations found out that some police officers were allegedly removing firearms that are subject to a handover-takeover from the armoury to a backyard room.
This was discovered following the arrest of Fugao after he was implicated by a suspected armed robber, Ame Mpala, who was arrested with an AK-47 rifle along the Bulawayo-Beitbridge Road.
Fugao, through his lawyers VJ Mpofu and Associates, filed an application for review at the Bulawayo High Court citing Comm-Gen Matanga and Hwange magistrate Ms Barbara Phiri as respondents.
In his founding affidavit, Fugao said Comm-Gen Matanga’s decision to convene a suitability board was irrational and malicious given that he was acquitted of the charges of theft and criminal abuse of duty.
“On August 31, 2020, I was informed by the officer commanding district in Hwange that a suitability board was to be convened in order to determine whether I was suitable to remain in the police or not. In the circumstances, I found the decisions marred by malice, bias and procedural irregularities,” he said.
Fugao argued that the imminent disciplinary hearing comes at a time when he was acquitted by Ms Phiri.
He said upon his acquittal, he was shocked when Ms Phiri warned him that he should in future record rifles in the occurrence book yet he was not convicted.
He said the magistrate erred by issuing that warning, which his boss is now using as a basis to convene a board of suitability.
“The authorities together with second respondent (Ms Phiri) failed to swallow their pride by stating that I was warned to ensure all was recorded in future. It was not clear what was supposed to be recorded, which was not recorded at the moment,” he said.
“There was then another minor charge which was manufactured to say I was supposed to make sure recordings were done in future. It was an error because it was like I was charged and cautioned for misconduct, which was not yet committed.”
Fugao argued that in arriving at the decision, Comm-Gen Matanga did not follow correct procedures.
“Clinging on this ‘conviction and warning’ by the second respondent shows that the malicious conviction is likely to be followed by an unlawful discharge after suitability board. The decision of the first respondent to hold a suitability board should be declared malicious,” he said.
Circumstances of the case are that on March 21 last year, Chaterera was arrested by detectives from the CID homicide section on allegations that he supplied a police AK47 rifle to a suspected armed robber Ame Mpala.
The detectives conducted a search at the ZRP Matabeleland North provincial armoury and recovered firearms, which were not booked in any records at the facility.
The firearms were kept in the storeroom in a disorderly manner. On March 22, detectives received a tip off that Chaterera and Karamba removed arms cache and ammunition from the armoury and concealed them at a house in Thorngrove in Bulawayo.
Upon searching the house, they found an assortment of weapons and ammunition.
The detectives interrogated the owner of the house, Mrs Delighted Chingoyori, who revealed that Karamba had left a parcel containing the firearms at her house, stating that she had given him the keys to the garage where the parcel was for safe keeping.
Some of the guns listed included Birmingham Sport Company rifles, Bore Winchester shotguns, a Bruno rifle, a Mouser long rifle, 303 Era rifle, Kregskorte rifle, Winchester rifle and a special revolver.
They were also found with more than 185 different kinds of live bullets. Some of the guns discovered at the house included a Norinco pistol, Visor Pistol, FN pistol, Special Renato gamba revolver, an Astra revolver, Berretta pistol and an automatic pistol.
It was then established that the accused persons had been allegedly receiving firearms for repairs at the station workshop, which is not consistent with their duties leading to their arrest.
When detectives arrived at the armoury they requested it be opened and a search was conducted in the presence of Karamba and Chaterera.
It was discovered after the search that there were several firearms that had been stored in the armoury that did not match any recorded on official documents.
Fugao by virtue of being the officer responsible was subsequently arrested.
The respondents are yet to respond. The Chronicle