THREE men and a woman from Bulawayo suspected to be linked to what could be an organised cross-border car theft syndicate have been arrested for stealing a top-of-range vehicle in South Africa.
They allegedly smuggled the car, an Audi Q5, into Zimbabwe through an illegal crossing point along the Limpopo River in Beitbridge.
They were arrested following the interception of the stolen car at a roadblock along the Bulawayo-Beitbridge highway.
Donald Misheck Madobi of Emhlangeni (41), Godwill Gwarambira (25) of Tshabalala, Fanuel Ndlovu (39) of Entumbane and Angeline Moyo (22) of Lobengula allegedly spotted the car (registration number BZ33SDGP), parked at a shopping centre in Boksburg in South Africa. They allegedly ganged up and stole the vehicle before they drove it to the border.
They allegedly smuggled the vehicle into the country through an illegal crossing point at Dite village along the Limpopo River.
Upon arrival in Beitbridge, they allegedly removed the South African number plates and replaced them with local ones registered under one Fortune Moyo.
They were arrested following the interception of their stolen vehicle at a roadblock in Makhado area in Beitbridge while on their way to Bulawayo. The car, which had a tracker, was stolen on June 25 this year at around 5pm and smuggled into the country the following day.
This emerged when the four suspects approached the Bulawayo High Court seeking bail pending trial.
Madobi, Gwarambira, Ndlovu and Moyo through their lawyer Jonathan Tsvangirai of Dube-Tachiona and Tsvangirai Legal Practitioners filed an appeal at Bulawayo High Court challenging the refusal of bail by a
Beitbridge magistrate, citing the State as a respondent.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Christopher Dube-Banda, however, rejected Madobi and Gwarambira’s appeal and granted Ndlovu and Moyo bail of $5 000 each.
Ndlovu and Moyo were ordered to report Entumbane and Njube Police Stations respectively once a week as part of the bail conditions.
They were also ordered not interfere with State witnesses and to continue residing at their given addresses until the matter is finalised.
In denying the four applicants bail, the magistrate argued that they were a flight risk. Aggrieved by the magistrate’s decision, the quartet noted an appeal at the Bulawayo High Court challenging the lower court’s ruling.
In their appeal, they argued that the magistrate erred and misdirected himself by failing to take proper account of the provisions of section 117 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. They also argued that the magistrate misdirected himself by failing to analyse each appellant’s peculiar circumstances and involvement in the alleged offences.
However, in its response, the State, which was represented by Mr Kudakwashe Jaravaza opposed the admissions to bail of Madobi and Gwarambira and conceded that it would be in the interests of justice to release Ndlovu and Moyo on bail.
Mr Jaravaza said Madobi and Gwarambira were not proper candidates for bail, arguing that they had propensity to abscond and evade trial by returning to South Africa through undesignated entry points, arguing that they were directly involved in the theft.
In denying them bail, the magistrate stated that the South African border was porous hence a likelihood of the appellants skipping the country.
Justice Dube-Banda ruled that the failure by the magistrate to analyse each appellant’s peculiar circumstances and involvement in the alleged offences was a valid ground of appeal.
“It is significant that when people are jointly charged and apply for bail together or as a group, fair trial requires that their individual cases must be determined separately. It is incorrect to treat them as a group and then conclude that all of them are not good candidates for bail,” he said.
Justice Dube-Banda said there is no evidence linking Ndlovu to the actual theft of the car in South Africa as he was only given the vehicle to drive it to Bulawayo while Moyo was just offered a lift in the stolen vehicle.
He said Madobi failed to adduce evidence that exceptional circumstances existed permitting his release. Justice Dube-Banda said despite claiming that he was only asked by Gwarambira to drive the stolen car in Beitbridge, Madobi was not a proper candidate for bail.
The judge said Gwarambira’s circumstances were similar to Madobi’s.
“The circumstances of this appellant (Gwarambira) are similar OR even worse than those of the first appellant (Madobi). He was found with the stolen car although in his version he alleged that he was handed over the car by another person when it already had Zimbabwean number plates,” he said.
“This is a vehicle that was stolen in South Africa on June 25 and he was found in the same car on June 26. He needed to place evidence before the court concerning the identity of the person who handed him the car, the circumstances and purposes of doing so.”
Justice Dube-Banda concluded that the evidence from the investigating officer poorly linked Ndlovu and Moyo to the stolen vehicle thus making the State case weak.
“In the result, the bail appeal is dismissed in respect of Donald Misheck Madobi and Godwill Gwarambira. The bail appeal succeeds in respect of Fanuel Ndlovu and Angeline Moyo and the order of the magistrate refusing to admit these two to bail, is accordingly set aside,” ruled the judge.