Residential Stand For Own Nephew- Council Boss Acquitted
The High Court has set aside both conviction and sentence of former Victoria Falls Municipality housing director Lot Siatimbula, who was last year fired for allegedly allocating a housing stand to his nephew without council approval.
Siatimbula (40) was last year convicted of criminal abuse of office by Victoria Falls magistrate Ms Lindiwe Maphosa and fined $500 or five months in jail.
In addition, Siatimbula was sentenced to 12 months in prison which was wholly suspended on condition of good behaviour.
The magistrate ruled that Siatimbula’s conduct, when he allocated stand Number 1585 measuring 3 300 square metres, at 25 percent of all costs to his relative Mr Sena Mumpande without council approval, coupled with failing to declare interest on the matter, was inconsistent with his duties as a housing director.
Aggrieved by both conviction and sentence, Siatimbula through his lawyer Advocate Lucas Nkomo instructed by Ncube and Partners, filed an appeal at the Bulawayo High Court citing the State as the respondent.
Justice Nokuthula Moyo, sitting with Justice Thompson Mabhikwa during a criminal appeals court, set aside Siatimbula’s conviction and sentence after the State conceded.
“The appeal succeeds and the conviction and sentence of the appellant (Siatimbula) is hereby set aside in its entirety,” ruled the judge.
In his heads of argument, Siatimbula said his conviction was not supported by evidence. He argued that the State failed to discharge the onus on it to prove each essential element of the offence beyond reasonable doubt.
“The State failed to adduce evidence showing that there must be a council resolution authorising the allocation of a stand to a prospective buyer before the housing department can process allocation. If there was truth in that allegation, the first two State witnesses, the Town Clerk and Chamber Secretary, ought to have availed to the State, by way of example, copies of such full council resolution,” argued Siatimbula.
“The documentary and oral evidence adduced by the appellant totally rebutted the State’s allegations. The appeal ought to succeed and the conviction of the appellant ought to be quashed.”
According to court papers, Siatimbula, who was suspended without pay on February 14 last year, un-procedurally allocated Stand Number 1585 in Victoria Falls to his brother’s son Mr Mumpande, who had not applied for it.
Siatimbula allegedly made misrepresentations to council about the stand and attempted to coerce the Chamber Secretary Ms Kholwani Mangena to process an agreement of sale and later tried to reverse the process.
Mr Mumpande would have paid $15 815 of the total $48 410 at 25 percent discount on all costs excluding 15 percent VAT, yet he joined council as a general hand in 2016.
This was in violation of Section 4(D) (1) of the Victoria Falls Municipality Code of Conduct thereby making him liable to a criminal charge of abuse of office as a public officer.
The Chamber Secretary picked the anomaly and alerted Town Clerk, Mr Dube, leading to Siatimbula’s suspension and arrest.
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