TWO suspected armed robbers, who allegedly robbed Mzilikazi Service Station and Cape to Cairo Night Club where they killed a police officer, last week filed an application for discharge, citing failure by the State to prove a prima facie case against them.
Police in Bulawayo in 2010 arrested three suspects Choga Njiva (30), Blessing Gwezera (33) both of Tshabalala and Khumbulani Ncube (25) of Nkulumane over the murder of Chief Superintendent Lawrence Chatikobo, officer-in-charge of the Serious Fraud Squad, in a botched robbery on September 18.
Njiva and Ncube were later identified by witnesses during an identity parade as having conducted the robbery at Mzilikazi Service Station while Gwezera was not identified by any witnesses, leading to his discharge.
Njiva represented by Advocate Robert Ndlovu and Ncube represented by Nonhlanhla Moyo denied the armed robbery charge when they appeared before then Bulawayo regional court magistrate Owen Tagu, now a Harare High Court judge.
Their lawyers filed applications for discharge at the close of the State case citing failure by the State to prove a prima facie case against them.
On Njiva’s behalf, Ndlovu submitted that the State witnesses who were called to testify in court failed to positively tell if there was ever an identification parade at the Bulawayo Central Police Station where the witnesses were said to have identified the two suspects.
He said one of the witnesses told the court that she never saw Njiva anywhere and could not fairly tell how Njiva looked like.
Ndlovu said the witnesses gave different accounts of what Njiva was wearing on the day.
He said even the investigating officer (IO) failed to give an account of events in the robbery, but only relied on the fact that Njiva was identified by witnesses at a parade.
“In summary, the court will note that the IO never witnessed the incident and all he said in court was purely based on hearsay,” Ndlovu submitted.
“The reasons for my application for discharge are that the State case is shrouded with unreliable evidence and it would be unjust for the first accused (Njiva) to be placed on his defence.
“Even if it can be said he was identified during parade, the court has no evidence or proof that he was at the scene.”
Ndlovu said it was for those reasons that Njiva should be discharged.
For Ncube, Moyo submitted that the State had failed to bring prima facie case against her client.
“The witnesses Sibonginkosi Ncube proved to be unreliable, as she tried to cover gaps by making inconsistent testimony,” she said.
“The investigating officer showed that he had no facts in connection with the case.
“The only thing he relied on was the identification parade.”
Moyo said the witnesses brought to court failed to corroborate each other on the identity of the suspects they claimed to have seen.
“It is due to these reasons that I submit that second accused be found not guilty and discharged at the close of the State case,” she said.
The State represented by Tinashe Dzipe concurred with Njiva’s lawyer that there was no proper evidence linking him to the offence and admitted he must be acquitted at the close of the State case, while he submitted that witnesses seemed to be pointing at Ncube as the one they had seen committing the robbery though their evidence was not similar.
“There is a prima facie case against accused two (Ncube), I pray that he be placed on his defence,” Dzipe said.
The matter was further remanded for judgment on the applications for discharge.
Njiva was arrested on September 28 amid allegations that he was severely tortured to extract a confession by the police.
Njiva and his colleague are alleged to have raided Mzilikazi Service Station at gunpoint on September 15 2010, before pouncing on at the Cape to Cairo nightclub in the city centre three days later.
At Mzilikazi Service Station a sales assistant handed over $753 after they fired shots into the air.
It is alleged that, again armed with pistols, the trio, accompanied by two other suspects still on the run, raided the Cape to Cairo nightclub and started shooting randomly.
Chatikobo, who was drinking in the club, was shot in the head.
Four others survived with gunshot wounds.
The robbers grabbed Chatikobo’s service pistol, $1 680 in cash and fled.
Police said they were arrested following a tip-off from the public during an unprecedented police operation in the city.