Ex-Mutoko RDC top officials appeal dismissed

Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter

MUTOKO Rural District Council’s former chief executive Peter Sigauke and town planner Enock Mukwekwe have lost a bid to quash an effective two-year jail sentence imposed on them for selling public land.

The duo sold off residential stands they carved out of Chinzanga Beer Hall yard and part of a bus terminus, and pocketed US$12 000. The duo unsuccessfully appealed the trial court decision at the High Court.

Still unhappy with the decision of the higher court, the duo took up their case on final appeal at the Supreme Court. The main issue for determination was whether or not the lower court misdirected itself in confirming the conviction and sentence of the duo by the trial court.

After hearing arguments from both the defence and prosecution counsel, a three-judge panel of Justices Tendai Uchena, George Chiweshe and Felistus Chatukuta, confirmed the lower court decision.

“The appeal by both appellants against both conviction and sentence lacks merit. In the result, the appeal is hereby dismissed,” ruled Justice Chatukuta, writing the judgment for the court.

The ruling means the duo will remain in jail to complete their sentence. They are due for release next month.

It is trite that an appeal court cannot lightly interfere with the factual findings of a lower court. It can only do so where the findings are, among other things, grossly unreasonable and cannot be supported by the evidence before the court.

In this case, Justice Chatukuta made a finding that the High Court correctly found that the evidence before the trial court was largely common cause and not irrational, and yielded to only one conclusion that Sigauke and Mukwekwe acted in connivance in contravention of the law.

“The two had participated in the meeting that passed resolutions usurping council powers and clearly with the intention to facilitate the unholy scheme.

“The court a quo (lower court). therefore, did not misdirect itself in upholding those findings. There is no basis for this court to interfere with the findings of the court a quo.”

The court also noted that the conviction of Sigauke was based on circumstantial evidence.

The lower court held that the only reasonable inference to be drawn from the circumstantial evidence was that Sigauke acted in connivance with Mukwekwe, hence the lower court could not be faulted.

Sigauke and Mukwekwe were in June 2022 convicted of criminal abuse of office by a Murehwa magistrate Chiedza Gatsi, who suspended 12 months of the 36-month jail term for five years for both of them on condition of good behaviour and ordered them to pay back the US$12 000.

Contrary to their duties as public officers and without approval from the rural district council, the two pegged three unnumbered stands within Chinzanga Beer Hall stand and sold them to Tinashe Mazarura, Gabriel Karimazondo and Trust Kachidza.

They then pocketed US$12 000 from the sales.

Sigauke and Mukwekwe also unlawfully created three commercial stands at the old bus terminus and sold two to Econet Wireless and Zvisineyi Chitiyo, while the third remained in the council’s land bank.

But the investigations into what the two were doing did not start until Sigauke also allocated stand 4015 to his partner in crime, Mukwekwe, without a council resolution.

The building became a problem and that is when investigations started. The whole illegal land deals were uncovered, leading to the arrest of two.

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