High Court overturns robbers-cum-rapists’ lenient sentence

THE National Prosecuting Authority of Zimbabwe has successfully appealed against a lenient sentence handed to two armed robbers-cum-rapists by a local magistrate.

THE National Prosecuting Authority of Zimbabwe has successfully appealed against a lenient sentence handed to two armed robbers-cum-rapists by a local magistrate.

The convicts gang-raped a Harare woman in the  presence of her minor children.

High Court judges of appeal Justices Munamato Mutevedzi and Esther Muremba ordered the presiding regional magistrate to revisit the sentence against Wallace Kufandada and Takudzwa Pepukai saying they deserved life sentences.

According to court records, Pepukai (18) and Kufandada (21) were charged with robbery and rape.

They both were sentenced to effective six years each for robbery after four years were suspended on condition of good behaviour.

On the rape charge, Kufandada was sentenced to 20 years.

However, Kufandada was set to spend 16 years in prison after the magistrate ruled that the two sentences would run concurrently, effectively suspending four years of his sentence.

The High Court judges said the sentence was too light and induced a sense of shock.

“In a sentencing judgment, a magistrate should address several key elements regarding the sentence imposed on an accused or offender, especially in relation to the presumptive penalty,” Justice Mutevedzi said.

“In the present case, the learned regional magistrate was alive to the presumptive penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment for a robbery committed in aggravating circumstances.

“She, however, omitted to explain her deviation from that presumptive penalty. In arbitrary fashion, she proceeded to impose 10 years’ imprisonment. A regional magistrate has jurisdiction to impose a maximum of 12 years’ imprisonment in robbery cases.

“The question which begs answers is: Why did the magistrate not impose the full 12-year sentence, considering that the presumptive penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment for robbery committed in aggravating circumstances?”

Justice Mutevedzi said the sentence was unjust given the gravity of the crime.

“In suspending four years’ imprisonment from the 10 years’ imprisonment imposed, the learned regional magistrate said that she considered the youthfulness of the accused persons,” Justice Mutevedzi said.

“The suspended sentence constitutes almost half of the sentence imposed. The penalty is undeniably unjust. The presumptive penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment is the standard penalty which serves as a baseline for the severity of the offence.”

Mutevedzi said the magistrate should have considered the high crime rate in the country, saying a deterrent sentence was needed.

According to the State, the victims and the perpetrators are residents of Nyatsime in Chitungwiza.

The convicts raided the complainants’ house after they had retired to bed with their six children. They demanded money and other valuables.

They assaulted the complainant's husband, while threatening to axe him to death.

The husband bolted out of the house, leaving his family at the mercy of the convicts.

The husband said he only returned after more than four hours.

The robbers assaulted the complainant and she was forced to also flee the house as well, leaving her children.

She sought help from a member of the neighbourhood watch committee, who promised to attend to the scene while advising her to go back home.

When she arrived home, the intruders had left.

However, they returned within a few minutes of her return.

The complainant was then raped before two members of the neighbourhood watch committee arrived.

The two convicts were arrested after they attempted to flee from the scene while their accomplice managed to escape.

The duo was convicted of robbery, but Pepukai was acquitted of rape.

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