OWEN MATAVA in Gweru
© The officer-in-charge of the Criminal Investigations Department in Gweru, Detective Inspector Leonard Gwandu, who was facing criminal abuse of office charges for allegedly releasing a stolen vehicle has been condemned to a jail term after being found guilty by a Gweru Magistrate, midlands news can reveal.
Regional Magistrate Pathekile Msipa today (Thursday) sentenced Gwandu to an effective three year jail term of which one year was suspended for 5 years on condition of good behaviour.
Namatirai Chipere appeared for the state.
The CID boss who at the end of the state case said he had no obligation to consult anyone, hence he used his discretion will now languish in prison.
Gwandu was put to his defence on the 2nd of March this year and told the court that he was not aware that the vehicle in question, a Toyota Hilux double-cab valued at US$27 000 he released to controversial Kwekwe businessman Shepard Tundiya, was stolen in South Africa and smuggled to Zimbabwe.
Gwandu pleaded not guilty before Gweru regional magistrate Msipa and was remanded to April 8 for judgment on $1 000 bail.
In his defence, Gwandu said as the officer-in-charge of CID Gweru, he was simply exercising his discretion when he released the vehicle to Tundiya.
Tundiya was acquitted under unclear circumstances of possessing stolen property with regards to the vehicle and went on to claim it from Gwandu.
“After the acquittal of Tundiya, I had no reason to hold on to the vehicle,” said Gwandu. “I believed Tundiya was the rightful owner of the said vehicle. I had no obligation to consult anyone with regards to disposal of the exhibit because I’m the officer-in-charge and have powers to exercise my discretion.”
However, State witness Detective Sergeant Mlabeni Sibanda told the court that Gwandu released the vehicle to Tundiya who had bought it from a Harare car dealer.
Detective Sergeant Sibanda said it was communicated to Gwandu that there were 10 such stolen South African-registered vehicles and Toyota South Africa and its clients were making follow-ups.
Of the 10 vehicles, Det Sgt Sibanda said two were in Gweru, including the one which was released to Tundiya by Gwandu.
The court heard that releasing the stolen vehicle showed favour to Tundiya since Gwandu had information to the effect that the vehicle had been stolen and smuggled into the country.
Det Sgt Sibanda said: “There are 10 such vehicles stolen in South Africa which are being tracked by Toyota South Africa. Two of these vehicles are in Gweru and the others are scattered around the country.
“We had made an appointment with Toyota South Africa together with its customers whose vehicles were stolen so that they come and identify the vehicles for possible repatriation to South Africa. This vehicle in question was supposed to be released to Toyota South Africa instead of Tundiya.”
The State alleges that on December 14 last year, Gwandu released the Toyota Hilux, which was confiscated from Tundiya after it was discovered that it had been stolen from South Africa.
Tundiya, who was arrested on October 16 last year for possessing the motor vehicle, was acquitted at the Gweru Magistrates Court on December 13.
The following day, Gwandu released the vehicle to him, allegedly without following due procedure.
Gweru lawyer Nomore Hlabano represented Gwandu who was arrested on the 3rd of January this year.
The Gweru CID officer-in-charge, becomes the third victim of Tundiya’ shenanigans to lose both his job and freedom. Kwekwe Magistrate Story Rushambwa was this week relieved of his duties following a similar case.
Rushambwa and his co accused former Kwekwe Clerk of Court Bright Mpiyabo are expected in court on the 29th of this month to answer to charges of criminal abuse of office.
Rushambwa and Mpiyabo were arrested on the 17th of January this year and both were suspended from work pending investigations.
The duo are facing allegations of illegally facilitating the release of a stolen vehicle to Tundiya.