Francistown High Court Judge, Phadi Solomon, on Monday acquitted and discharged nine men of Jackalas 2 Village in the North East District who were facing a single count of murder.
The accused, Modise Elias, Hlabezulu Mahlathini, Buru Rutang, Capson Mbona, Mgopi Tshepang Ellias, Jerald Petros, Lucky Notice, Mbiganyi Mauza and Kelly Mathanjana on the 9th of February in 2003, in Jackalas 2 Village allegedly murdered Fidelis Sibanda, a Zimbabwean national.
It is alleged that the nine men attacked Sibanda after blaming him for his involvement in different criminal activities in the village. They then jointly assaulted him until he lost consciousness.
The police were then summoned to intervene and Sibanda was then whisked to Nyangabgwe Referral Hospital where he was certified dead upon arrival.
However, the defense attorneys in the case, Joste Isaacs and Gontse Simon on Monday pleaded with the court to issue a permanent stay of prosecution on the matter as the state had failed to afford the accused men a hearing in reasonable time.
The defense argued that the case, which has been pending for nine years, was prejudicing the accused.
“The state has failed to file their notice of opposition to the defense ever since the matter was registered in court despite an order from court for them to do so. We, therefore, apply for a permanent stay of prosecution because the matter has pending for nine years,” said Isaacs.
Giving her ruling on the matter, Justice Solomon agreed with the defense’s submissions, saying that the state had dragged its feet in the case. She further brought to the court’s attention that the state violated section 10, Subsection 1 of the penal code by not affording the accused persons a hearing within a reasonable time.
“The prosecution failed dismally to file their notice of opposition to the matter, therefore prosecution against the accused is permanently stayed,” she said.
The state was represented by Ambrose Mubika of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) who was not in court during the day’s proceedings.