BULAWAYO High Court Judge, Thompson Mabhikwa on Wednesday granted jailed Ntabazinduna Chief, Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni $500 bail pending his appeal against both conviction and sentence.
Bulawayo magistrate, Gladmore Mushove two weeks ago sentenced Ndiweni to 18 months in prison for damaging one of his subjects, Fetti Mbele’s homestead.
His 23 co-accused villagers were each sentenced to 525 hours of community service.
Ndiweni’s legal team, led by professor Welshman Ncube, applied for bail pending appeal for both his conviction and sentence.
In granting Ndiweni bail, Justice Mabhikwa noted that the chances for the success of the chief’s appeal at the High court were very high.
“It is a best and important tenet of our law in general that litigants have a right to have the taste of the correctiveness of judgement made against him or her by a higher court. This court cannot be seen to be slamming the door in the face of litigants,” ruled Justice Mabhikwa.
The judge also ordered Ndiweni to continue residing at his Ntabazinduna village as well as report to Ntabazinduna police station every Friday between from 6am to 6pm.
The State, led by Kudakwashe Jaravaza, had opposed bail arguing that the chief was likely to abscond.
“This matter went for almost five years. The applicant attended all the sessions. During his trial, he made reference that he had incurred a lot of costs transporting his co-accused,” said Justice Mabhikwa in response to the State‘s argument.
Chief Ndiweni was represented by Professor Ncube and Dumisani Dube.
The lawyers contended that the magistrate’s court had erred in both convicting and sentencing Ndiweni.
“The court a quo erred in finding that there were aggravating circumstances as no evidence was led to show that fire was used and that the exe used to enforce the order of the court was only but a tool and not a weapon as alleged by the court,” argued Professor Ncube.
Professor Moyo also argued that according to the Traditional Leaders Act, it was accepted for a traditional leader to punish any subject convicted of a customary offence.
“The court a quo erred in failing to appreciate that Ndebele culture and customary law empowered the 1st appellant (Ndiweni) to banish out of his jurisdiction any subject convicted of a customary offence,” further argued Professor Ncube.
Mbele of Ntabazinduna was banished from the village by the chief after his wife, Nonkangelo Mpengesi was allegedly caught having sex with another villager.
The chief ruled that Mbele should divorce his wife because of her alleged adulterous.
Mbele refused to divorce his wife resulting to his banishment from Sifelani village leading to the offence which the chief and the villagers are being accused of.