Former deputy mayor, Tinashe Kambarami was Monday acquitted of criminal theft charges against him by the Bulawayo High Court.
In delivering the judgment, High Court judges, Justice Martin Makonese and Justice Thompson Mabhikwa set aside his conviction and sentencing.
The judges cited that Kambarami’s guilty plea to the theft charge was not clear.
In July 2018, Kambarami was convicted and fined $80 or 18 days in prison for allegedly stealing an extension cord from an electrician he had hired to do manual work at his offices.
This conviction earned Kambarami a dismal from council as he lost his position as deputy mayor, prompting him through his lawyers – Samp Mlaudzi and Partners, to challenge the sentencing.
“The plea of guilty was not genuine and unequivocal. In his plea, the Appellant raised defences which the magistrate ignored. The Appellant denied the essential elements of the offense, he had no mental intention. The court a quo should have gone to trial and not convict the Appellant on his own plea,” the judgment cited.
In their submissions, Kambarami’s lawyers noted that he was not legally represented at the time he entered a guilty plea.
They argued the magistrate ought to have been duty bound to pay particular attention to his responses during the proceedings before passing sentence.
“The Appellant was unrepresented during the proceedings and the judicial officer was then in the invidious position of being an arbiter and, at the same time, an adviser of the accused. Presiding officer was duty bound to pay particular attention to the Appellant’s responses during the proceedings,” read the submissions.
In November 2018, 1893 Mthwakazi Restoration Movement (1893MRM), made an application to the High Court demanding that Kambarami relinquish his post as both councillor and deputy mayor citing he was unfit to hold office because of his criminal record.
In August 2019, Justice Mabhikwa ruled that Kambarami’s election into office was null and void owing to his criminal conviction.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is yet to rule on Kambarami’s challenge against the High Court judgment which was delivered by Justice Mabhikwa.