Luthando Mapepa in CHIPINGE
A BID for freedom by Nyanga North legislator Hubert Nyanhongo, who was allegedly found in possession of a live pangolin, failed after a Chipinge magistrate put him on his defence yesterday.
Mr Noah Gwatidzo ruled that Nyanhongo and three other accused persons had a case to answer after their attorney, Mr Langton Mhungu of Matutu, Kwirira Associates had applied for discharge at the close of the State case.
In his application, Mr Mhungu cited lack of essential evidence from State witnesses that incriminates the four.
Nyanhongo, his alleged accomplices, Samuel Samson (42), Misheck Satuku (47) and Positive Mutenda (29) were allegedly trapped by rangers from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management with a live pangolin at Birchenough Bridge in April.
In his ruling, Mr Gwatidzo dismissed the defence’s application, arguing that State witnesses gave corroborating evidence which showed that a live pangolin was recovered in Nyanhongo’s vehicle.
“It cannot be denied that a live pangolin which was in a sack was found in Hubert Nyanhongo’s vehicle as stated by State witnesses who gave corroborating evidence.
“According to Section 97 of the Parks and Wildlife Management, it says if anyone found with an animal in his vehicle, he/she is responsible for the animal recovered.
“This assertion connects the four accused persons with an offence, therefore your plea for discharge is dismissed,” ruled Mr Gwatidzo
In his defence outline, Nyanhongo, pleaded with the court to look for another witness before the conclusion of the matter.
Nyanhongo said they should give him and his accomplices an opportunity to call one Kapenga, a Mozambican national whom they claimed to be the owner of the pangolin.
“Your Worship, I am insisting that the pangolin does not belong to us. It belongs to Kapenga, the one we offered a lift while we were in my constituency.
“If we are given a chance with the help of police officers we can go and call Kapenga to testify in this court where he got the pangolin.
“I know the village where Kapenga stays and if we get the opportunity, we can call him to set us free us in this matter. Your Worship, I am insisting that we never committed this offence and it was the Parks rangers who deliberately allowed Kapenga to escape,” pleaded Nyanhongo.
“When we were arrested by the rangers, they poked me with an FN rifle on my head and that is when Kapenga vanished from the scene,” said Nyanhongo.
Allegations are that on April 1, at around 4.45pm at Birchenough Business Centre, Samuel Gona – a ranger – received a call from the accused, Samuel Samson, who is Nyanhongo’s driver. Samson told Gona that he was selling a pangolin.
They allegedly agreed to meet at Birchenough Bridge Business Centre. Gona alerted rangers from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management who hatched a plan to arrest the accused persons.
Chipinge District prosecutor Mr Last Goredema, said: “Upon arrival at Birchenough Bridge, the four accused persons who were driving a Jeep Cherokee, registration number AEC 4769, white in colour picked up Gona and drove away from the business centre to show him the pangolin.
“The informant, who posed as a buyer, negotiated the price (and) he agreed to buy the endangered species for $5 000.
“They then drove to the business centre intending to collect the money. The informant then led them to the place where the Parks and Wildlife rangers were waiting.
“Nyanhongo and the three accused were arrested and a search was conducted (and) a live pangolin was recovered on the back seat in a sack.”