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Jailed army cleric found not guilty by High Court

A FIRED senior army cleric, who successfully challenged his six-year prison term at the High Court following his conviction on charges of stealing a car belonging to a business partner and stripping it, is now suing his accuser for more than US$200 000.

Solomon Ndlovu (52), an ex-captain in the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and chaplain at Mbalabala Barracks, was in January 2018 convicted of theft of a motor vehicle by Gwanda regional magistrate Mr Mark Dzira after a full trial.

He was sentenced to six years in jail of which two months were suspended for five years on condition of good behaviour. A further six months were suspended on condition he restituted his business partner Mr Osfael Mazibuko $2 500 leaving him with an effective 64 months to serve. Aggrieved by both conviction and sentence, Ndlovu then filed an appeal at the Bulawayo High Court citing the State as a respondent.

Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Maxwell Takuva, who was sitting with Justice Thompson Mabhikwa during a criminal appeals court, found Ndlovu not guilty and acquitted him.

Ndlovu was alleged to have borrowed a Toyota Hilux vehicle from Mr Mazibuko and later stripped and stole the engine and gearbox.

He then allegedly fitted the engine and gearbox onto another vehicle.

Mr Ndlovu, through his lawyers T Hara and Partners, filed summons at the Bulawayo High Court citing Mr Mazibuko and his manager Mr Dennis Ndlovu as defendants.

Mr Ndlovu wants an order directing the two defendants to pay a total of US$204 800 for loss of his house, 78 head of cattle and tractors. The money also includes damages for wrongful and malicious prosecution, imprisonment, loss of contumelia, job and pension benefits.

In the event that one of the defendants pays, the other one would be absolved.

In his plaintiff declaration, Mr Ndlovu said in May 2016, he entered into a sale agreement of a Toyota Hilux body on wheels (registration number ADG9909).

He said payment of the money was to be effected through the second defendant (Mr Dennis Ndlovu)

“Around April 2017, the first defendant (Mr Mazibuko) lodged a report to members of the Central Intelligence Organisation alleging that I stole his car, a Toyota Hilux truck. Using the influence of CIO operatives, the first defendant went to Makhado Police Station in Beitbridge and made a false criminal report,” said Mr Ndlovu.

The plaintiff said as a result of the false report, he was arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

“It was malicious for the first defendant to lay a report of theft of a motor vehicle as he had signed an agreement of sale. During trial, despite producing an agreement of sale, the first defendant insisted that I had stolen his car,” said Mr Ndlovu.

He said Dennis, who had received payment for the car body, denied that he got the money during his testimony in court.

“The two defendants acted with malice when they testified against me. The reason being that they wanted to elbow me out as director of operations at Haigwari Safaris,” said Ndlovu.

He said while serving in prison, the two defendants took over the safari company and changed its name to Mjingwe Conservancy.

Mr Ndlovu said as a result of the two defendants’ actions he lost a house, 78 cattle and a tractor all valued at US$102 000. He said his marriage also collapsed and lost his job, prospects of promotion and pension benefits.

“Wherefore, my claim is for payment of the sum of US$102 800 valued as at the date of payment for the loss of my house, 78 head of cattle and a tractor. Payment for damages for wrongful malicious prosecution and imprisonment in the sum of the equivalent of US$52 000,” he said.

“I am also claiming US$50 000 being damages for contumelia and loss of my family and wife, job and pension benefits. The claim is being made jointly and severally against the defendants, the one paying the other to be absolved.”

Mr Ndlovu also wants the defendants to pay his legal costs.

Following his acquittal, Ndlovu had hoped to be reinstated, but a letter signed by one Lieutenant T Sibanda, the ZNA director of legal advisory services and litigation, stated that they could not reverse General Philip Valerio Sibanda’s decision to discharge the ex-chaplain.

The letter stated that instead, the organisation is prepared to pay Ndlovu a pension commensurate with his service and age.

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