TWO siblings who were arrested for conspiracy to commit armed robbery and unlawful possession of firearms three weeks ago denied the charges yesterday, saying they were framed.
The duo, Tawanda Mafidi (35) and Vengesai Mnangagwa (45) were denied bail at the High Court by Justice Benjamin Chikowero.
They are facing conspiracy to commit armed robbery and unlawful possession of firearms charges.
Tawanda is a squadron leader in the Airforce of Zimbabwe while his brother is a farmer in Marondera.
They are also mining partners at Litapet Mining Syndicate together with their mother, Lita Gomo.
Allegations are that on April 14, this year members of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) received a tip off that the duo was conspiring to commit an armed robbery at Plot 5 Overlaw Farm, Muzvezve in Kadoma.
They were intercepted and searched along Bulawayo Road near Norton and CID officers recovered an AK-47 rifle containing 30 rounds of ammunition.
During a search at their residence, police found a Tokarev pistol.
In denying the offence, the duo claimed that the firearm was planted by the CID.
They told the court that they were framed by one Chifamba, a serving member of the Zimbabwe National Army, who allegedly conspired with them to commit the armed robbery.
The State alleges that Tawanda sold the plan to commit the robbery to Chifamba and requested him to provide firearms for the purpose.
Chifamba pretended to go along with the idea, but he alerted his superiors.
The duo, however, maintains that it did not even know that Chifamba was in possession of the AK-47 rifle and 30 rounds of ammunition.
They argued that Chifamba boarded their car at the Harare Exhibition Park saying he was going to Chegutu, and they did not know that an AK-47 rifle had been hidden under the seat. They also claimed that the Tokarev Pistol was planted by police at Tawanda’s residence.
Justice Chikowero said their trial would be at the regional court in Harare.
“The first applicant (Tawanda) resides under his own roof on a piece of land allocated to him in Waterfalls, Harare. He stays with his family. He is a serving member of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. He holds business interests in a mining claim located in Kadoma. The second applicant is a farmer residing at a fairly big piece of land situated in Marondera allocated to him by the relevant minister. He stays with his family. He also holds business interests in the same mining claim,” Justice Chikowero said.
“The applicants did not dispute the offence of conspiracy to commit robbery in aggravating circumstances, which is a serious offence which on conviction invariably attracts a severe custodial sentence.”
Justice Chikowero said their robbery charge might attract imprisonment for life (section 126 (2) (a) of the Criminal Code).
He said the State had a very strong case against the duo.
“It appears that the verdict will turn on the sufficiency of evidence and the credibility of the witnesses. In my opinion, the prosecution appears to have at its disposal an array of witnesses apparently bringing forth a chain of strong evidence against the applicants. On the other hand, their defence strikes me as weak. It seems to have self-evident gaps,” Justice Chikowero ruled.
The judge also dismissed their application for bail pending trial, saying there was a possibility of them absconding trial in fear of lengthy custodial sentences.