War vet jailed 6 years for stealing 17 beasts during land reform programme
A Harare court on Wednesday sentenced Dzingai Nevhunjere to six years imprisonment for stealing 17 cattle from former commercial white farmer Thomas Charles Bayley at the height of the land reform programme in 2002.
Nevhunjere is said to have terrorised commercial farmers in Mazowe district during the fast-track land reform program which was marred by violence and intimidation.
The government’s land distribution is perhaps the most crucial and most bitterly contested political issue surrounding Zimbabwe.
The 64-year-old, who claimed to be a war veteran’s leader, will serve five years effective jail term after magistrate Victoria Mashamba suspended one year on condition of good behaviour.
In passing sentence Mashamba said she considered that at the time he committed the offence a common law was being used to sentence stock thieves hence to use that law.
Mashamba said she will also consider age, family, that she participated in the war of liberation and the circumstances around the commission of the offence.
“This case was sent for review at the High Court on three times. It was also sent to the Supreme Court and the convict was not successful. It was again handled by other two magistrates after the High Court ordered a trial de novo (retrial),” Mashamba ruled.
“Past criminal record shows he is a first offender and this case is his first and the law said first offender should be treated leniently. He is a senior citizen and a war veteran who contributed to the liberation struggle. When the offence was committed it was because you want to implement what you fought for. But this did not go well because you end up taking someone’s cattle. Moral blame worthless is more and you was a commander and took advantage of your authority by stealing and distorting the agrarian reform.”
“You planned to steal because you sent the cattle to your farm in Mvurwi. You did not assist in recovery of the cattle. You tried to fight against the offence. You are luck that at the time it was not 9 years mandatory as this time. The court shall not impose that 9 years mandatory but will use the common law,” Mashamba ruled.
Mashamba said she will not sentence him per one beast up to 17 but will sentence him as one count.
“The court will not look into the number of cattles. A fine or a community service will trivialize the offence. A custodial sentence is merited. I will sentence you to 6 years imprisonment and one year on condition that you shall not commit the same offence in a period of five years. You will serve five years effective without an option of a fine,” she ruled.
Bayley was the owner of Danburry Park Farm in Marlborough, Harare.
The court heard that Nevhunjere and some youths invaded the farm on April 13, 2002 and prevented Bayley from entering it.
They barricaded the entrance using poles and drums, and then forced Baylely’s family out of the farm, which had 977 cattle and 210 calves. Nevhunjere took custody of all the cattle.
On April 5 and 7, 2002, Nevhunjere then drove 20 cattle to his Omeath Farm in Mvurwi.
Sixteen beasts were recovered from Nevhunjere on November 13, 2003 after the complainant identified them.
The court also heard that on several occasions, the war veteran would order his youths to slaughter cows for meat.
When Bayley was finally allowed to enter his farm on July 13, 2002, he collected 1 042 cattle, and discovered that 145 beasts were missing.
On February 5, 2005 police recovered six beasts from Nevhunjere.