THE officer-in-charge of Tsholotsho police, Chief Inspector Muyambirwa Muzzah, who was being charged with three counts of associating with a criminal suspect, abandoning an anti-poaching operation and defying an order to attend a senior police officers’ meeting, was last week found not guilty of all the charges.
At the close of the defence case, Lupane magistrate Aelene Munamati acquitted Muzzah.
Four police officers, a Superintendent Mkandla — officer commanding Lupane district, who was also Muzzah’s supervisor during the anti-poaching operation, Sergeant Khumalo, Sergeant George Ndlovu and Constable Rucheche had all testified against him.
Muzzah was also alleged to have associated with a convicted criminal Busani Moyo by borrowing his vehicle to use for personal business.
Moyo had earlier been convicted and sentenced to nine years in jail for illegally dealing in elephant tusks. He was released on bail pending an appeal against conviction and sentence.
Muzzah was also charged with abandoning anti-elephant poaching patrol operation at Hwange National Park and defying the order to attend a senior police officers’ resolution meeting of 2013 in Hwange after he was advised to do so by his superiors.
Muzzah testified that he was fairly new in Tsholotsho and was not aware that Moyo was out on bail over elephant tusks dealings. He said during the anti-poaching operation, they were not given a due date to complete the patrol.
Muzzah said he left the place of operation after being told that Moyo had some other poaching crimes and went back to look for him as part of the operation.
In the third count he said he was never told that there was a meeting and could not have boycotted the meeting deliberately if he had been told. He also said he was ill and even produced a medical report detailing his illness. Mkandla had charged that by associating with a convict, Muzzah had brought the police force’s name into disrepute.
Mkandla said Muzzah just disappeared from the patrolling crew without informing him as a supervisor and did not tell him where he had gone. In acquitting him on the charge of associating with a criminal, Munamati said the key State witness, Khumalo, was not a credible witness and had no clean hands in dealing with the same convict.
Munamati indicated that during the trial, it had emerged that Khumalo was once seen driving Moyo’s vehicle and even offered him (Moyo) a job to paint the police station.
She questioned why it would only be criminal when Muzzah used the same suspect’s car. She said it would appear the law in that case was being applied selectively against Muzzah.
On the charge of abandoning duty, Munamati said during cross examination Muzzah had asked Mkandla if it was an offence that he went back to Tsholotsho on a follow-up mission after they had earlier left the operational area and went to Phelandaba where they arrested some suspects for poaching, which was not an offence .