AN Inyathi man who was facing charges of fatally striking a patron with an axe in a bar brawl heaved a sigh of relief after a High Court judge found him not guilty of murder and acquitted him yesterday.

William Hlambelo (38) of Stand 15 Alfa Village in Lonely Mine denied axing Hero Mnkandla, a gold panner who was aged 27 in May last year.

The incident happened at M.H Bottle Store.

Hlambelo told the court that the key State witness Mr Nkanyiso Mpofu who was the deceased’s friend was the one who struck Mnkandla with an axe causing his death.

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Mnkandla who resided at Stand 12 Fetkill in the same area, died four months later from the injuries.

Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Christopher Dube-Banda who is on circuit in Hwange said the State failed to prove its case.

Justice Dube-Banda said the key witness Mr Mpofu’s testimony was not credible as he deliberately left out some evidence that was materially key to the case. Hlambelo appeared relieved when the judge acquitted him.

In his defence Hlambelo who was represented pro deo by Ms Linda Mthombeni of Dube, Nkala and Company said he had a misunderstanding with the now-deceased who drew an okapi knife intending to st_b him. Hlambelo told court that Mr Mpofu who was armed with an axe intervened and tried to hit the accused who ducked resulting in the weapon hitting the now-deceased.

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The brawl had reportedly started after patrons comprising gold panners and villagers had refused to vacate the bar when the bar lady ordered them out as it was time to close.

Prosecuting, Mr Bheki Tshabalala said after the attack, Mnkandla was taken to hospital where he was treated and discharged but died on September 6 last year from the injuries.

“On the 26th day of May 2019 at around 9pm the deceased was drinking beer at M.H Bottle Store. The accused got into the bottle store just before closing and struck the deceased with an axe once on the forehead and on the left thigh,” said Mr Tshabalala.

In his testimony, Mr Mpofu had told the court that the accused arrived at the bar armed with an axe and went straight to the deceased before striking him on the head and thigh and leaving the scene.

The axe was not recovered.-Chronicle

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