Supreme Court grants bail for Plumtree gold heist suspects

The Supreme Court has lifted a High Court ruling which had revoked bail for eight suspects allegedly involved in the theft of 28 kilograms of gold at Plumtree Police Station.

Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Thompson Mabhikwa, on June 24, threw the suspects into jail after the lawyers of one of the suspects, Jefat Chaganda, claimed he had died in a bid to abscond trial.

Chaganda’s lawyers, Nyikadzino, Simango and Associates informed the court that he had died but failed to produce a death certificate resulting in a warrant of arrest being issued against their client.

Chaganda and eight others, Plumtree regional magistrate Timeon Tavengwa Makunde, Stanley Chinyanganya, who is the area public prosecutor, prominent Harare lawyer Admire Rubaya as well as Dingumuzi Ncube, Tyson Ruvando, Godfrey Makuvadze, Ladislous Tamboonei and Detective Assistant Inspector Ladislous Tinacho, who is in charge of the ZRP Minerals and Border Control, are facing theft charges or obstructing the course of justice.

They all allegedly connived to steal the gold which was kept as an exhibit at Plumtree Police Station.

Supreme Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi readmitted the bail ruling and its initial conditions for the eight.

The accused`s lawyers, in their application, cited that there was no risk of the accused persons interfering with the evidence before the courts nor would they endanger the safety of the evidence  or committing further crimes.

The lawyers further stated that the admission of bail would neither disturb peace and security nor would they jeopardise the functioning of the criminal justice system.

“The applicant should be released on bail because the incarceration is irregular, they have faithfully served the terms imposed by the court and their adequacy has never been validly queried or doubted. The basis upon which the order for incarceration was made was that it would be in the interests of justice for that order to be granted. No application had been made by the State for the order issued by the court neither was applicant heard on the matter,” the application read.

The accused persons were all granted bail of ZWL$300 pending trial.

It was later revoked after Chaganda failed to appear in court and his lawyer claimed that he had died.

This conduct by the lawyers infuriated Justice Mathonsi and he locked up all the suspects.

Before the death claims, Chaganda had been arrested in a Botswana-bound train while his accomplice Ncube, who was in his company, managed to flee.

Chaganda took advantage of his temporary freedom to run away again.

The trial for the case is set to commence on September 8.

According to court papers, the accused persons allegedly stole gold weighing 28kg valued at US$970 000 from Plumtree Police Station armoury through unlawful entry on July 7, 2018.

The offence was discovered a week later when Chief Inspector Mangena, who was reporting for duty, noticed that two FN rifles which were booked in the charge office were not physically there in the armoury.

The gold was intercepted by police leading to Chaganda`s arrest.

Chaganda was found in unlawful possession of part of the stolen gold weighing 14 kg which he intended to smuggle into Botswana.

“The recovered gold was seized by Zimra and handed over to the police in Plumtree. The nine accused persons hatched a plan to steal the impounded gold and allegedly played various roles in the scheme,” the State alleged.

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