'Tsvangirai's aide has case to answer'

HARARE - A Harare magistrate has ruled that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s aide has a case to answer on charges of illegally possessing a firearm.

The application for discharge at the close of the State’s case against PM’s aide Thabani Mpofu in his firearms charge, was yesterday dismissed by magistrate Anita Tshuma.

Tshuma ruled that the State had managed to establish a prima facie case against Mpofu, with the trial continuing on May 20.

Mpofu’s defence counsel Chris Mhike had argued the firearm was seized as a result of an unlawful search and should thus be excluded from evidence before the court.

“In summary, therefore, the police did not, as the search warrant required, proceed to search accused’s house for articles which were on reasonable grounds believed to be concerned in the commission of an offence, as required by section 49 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act,” read part of the submissions by Mhike.

In response, State prosecutor Jonathan Murombedzi argued that a police officer is entitled to search without a warrant if he believes that a warrant would be issued if he had applied.

“It was not prudent for the police officer to leave a firearm and go back to apply for a search warrant under the circumstances,” Murombedzi said.

“It can be said that the police officers reasonably believed that had they applied for a search warrant in respect of the firearm, they would have been issued with one.”

He said that the recovery of the firearm was done in good faith.

Mpofu is facing charges of contravening Section 4 (1) of the Firearms Act for allegedly failing to renew a firearm certificate and Section 28 (2) of the Firearms Act for allegedly keeping a firearm in a non-secure place.

It is alleged during a search of his premises on March 17, police officers confiscated a firearm that was neither registered nor kept in a secure place after it was found hidden under a pile of clothes in the house.

When police inquired to see a certificate for the weapon, Mpofu allegedly failed to produce the required documentation leading to his arrest.

Mpofu together with Felix Matsinde, Warship Dumba and Mehluli Moyo is also facing charges of impersonating a police officer, contravening the Official Secrets Act and being in possession of articles for criminal use.

It is alleged Mpofu and his colleagues were in possession of dockets that they were privately compiling to discredit the judicial system and had names of top government officials. - Helen Kadirire

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