MWENEZI - The adage that justice delayed is justice denied is proving to be apt in a stock theft case dating back to 2017.
The complainants are one man and his wife who decided to take matters into their own hands by going on a cross-border expedition in South Africa where they allegedly kidnapped the fugitive suspect and brought him back to Zimbabwe.
They had long harboured feelings of disgruntlement with the way police had handled the case, and by the escape of the suspect from lawful custody allegedly with the help of complicit police officers.
After successfully ‘extraditing’ the suspect back to Zimbabwe, it is the ‘snail pace’ at which the case is moving at the Masvingo Magistrates Court that has become a new irritant for the disaffected couple.
The complainants themselves are, however, faced with their own criminals charges related to the alleged kidnap incident and the severe assault which their alleged victim suffered.
Many people feel the people handling the case are violating Section 165 (1) b of the Constitution which demands speedy justice delivery.
The deferment of the matter, which was transferred from Mwenezi Court to Masvingo Court last year owing to its sensitivity, has not only become a big let-down to the complainants but to the five suspects as well.
All the parties continue to go back to court every now and then, but the case seems to be making no real progress.
The alleged cattle rustlers are Clever Mashira, Menius Chihora, Munyaradzi Matibwini, Manatsa Chigova and Talent Moyo, whom the aggrieved couple dragged back to Zimbabwe from his South African hideout.
Their hearing was supposed to continue last week on July 31, with all the State witnesses having shown up for the trial but the case was further postponed to August 22 after the docket reportedly went missing.
Three of the five suspects are out of custody on bail, with Chigova and Moyo already serving jail sentences after being convicted on separate charges of stock theft and escaping from lawful custody respectively.
Chigova and Moyo are alleged to have been complicit in theft of 14 cattle belonging to Elfas Nyatera and his wife Mercy Muganyi.
The crime was allegedly committed in 2017 but the case has been beset with several postponements.
The endless rescheduling of the trial is said to be a violation of Section 69 (2) of the Constitution which stipulates that every person has right to fair and speedy hearing within a reasonable time.
What worries many is that such a sensitive matter which is taking eternity to conclude and will probably be thrown out of court due to ‘lack of evidence’ or missing dockets.
Alleged police corruption in Mwenezi and the interest that this particular case has generated among members of the public has attracted the attention of senior police bosses who last year paid a visit to the district to get a better appreciation of the story.
After hearing of the news of the daring cross-border raid by Nyatera and his wife, the Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs, Ezra Chadzamira met the couple to hear their side of the story. This was after Nyatera, his wife and their co-accused were released from remand prison on bail following their arrest on two charges of kidnapping.
Sources close to the matter told TellZim News that complicating the matter is that the seemingly obvious case against the alleged five cattle rustlers could die a natural death as the police have allegedly done a shoddy investigative job so as to shield their own.
“Owing to the shoddy investigation, the State’s case is unlikely to stand the test of a good lawyer. It is very clear that the complainants’ cattle were stolen but the evidence that is before the courts is unlikely to warrant convictions,” said a source.
Other reliable sources said the couple were likely to be convicted on kidnapping charges as evidence against them was overwhelming.
The cattle theft case was transferred to Masvingo to improve neutrality as it implicates several police officers in the district.
Some police officer were transferred following an internal investigation which was done after complaints were registered that police officers in Mwenezi were clearing stolen cattle and were working with cattle rustlers in exchange for massive bribes.