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Court acquits Nkala accused

Itai Dzamara

IN an embarrassing anti-climax to the sensational Cain Nkala trial saga, the High Court yesterday acquitted six men accused of murdering the war veterans’ leader in 2001.

P>High Court judge Sandra Mungwira acquitted all accused, who include MP for Lobengula/Magwegwe, Fletcher Dulini Ncube. The judge said no competent court could continue a trial when there was no evidence linking the accused to Nkala’s killing.

The ruling will be a huge embarrassment to the Zanu PF government which had used the murder to launch a propaganda campaign against the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) dubbed “war against terror”.

A ZTV news crew covered the “discovery” of Nkala’s body in a shallow grave outside Bulawayo in November 2001 and its exhumation. The footage was repeatedly replayed.

Nkala was declared a national hero as Zanu PF unleashed an orgy of violence against the MDC including the burning down of the party’s Bulawayo offices.

Those accused with Dulini Ncube were Remember Moyo, Kethani Sibanda, Sazini Mpofu, Nicholas Masora and Army Zulu.

Moyo, Sibanda and Mpofu had been held since November 2001.

Josephat Tshuma of Webb, Low & Barry, who represented the accused, gave details of the ruling in Harare yesterday.

“After the close of the state case, the defence made an application that the accused be discharged since there was no evidence that they had murdered Nkala,” Tshuma said.

“Our argument was that the state was merely trying to rely on the evidence given by three other accused persons, who had testified under duress. Consequently, the judge decided that no competent court would keep the accused on trial and therefore acquitted them.”

Nkala, who was the war veterans’ chairman for Bulawayo, was kidnapped and murdered in November 2001 outside Bulawayo.

The accused were arrested between November 12 and 15 2001 and were denied bail on several occasions. At some stage they were put into solitary confinement at Khami Prison, leading to the deterioration of Dulini Ncube’s health. He had to undergo surgery to have one eye removed.

In a trial within the trial, the defence argued that state evidence had been extracted by duress and was therefore not admissible. Justice Mungwira agreed with the defence and sharply criticised the police who gave evidence as state witnesses.

“The witnesses conducted themselves in a shameless fashion and displayed utter contempt for the due administration of justice to the extent that they were prepared to indulge in what can only be described as works of fiction as is especially illustrated by the state of (the) investigations diary,” said Justice Mungwira.

MDC legal spokesman David Coltart, who the ruling party attempted to implicate in the murder conspiracy, yesterday said the acquittal of the accused was a challenge to the acting Attorney-General who now had to launch investigations to establish who the real killers were.

“It’s a vindication of the MDC’s consistent position that it was not behind the killing of Nkala. You will recall that a week after the murder (President Robert) Mugabe called MDC leaders terrorists and there was this so-called war against terror,” said Coltart.

“The alleged murder of Nkala by the MDC was used as a pretext to burn down MDC offices in Bulawayo. It was used to justify violence against us ahead of the presidential election.

“The judgement brings us back to the question: who killed Cain Nkala? The judgement is a serious indictment of Zanu PF. The acting Attorney-General should immediately investigate the murder of Nkala. And I suggest he starts closer to home.”

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