From 2007 to 2009, Mutare became a centre of foreign diamond dealers from Lebanon, China, DRC South Africa and every corner of the country. These would partner local dealers who would go deep into Chiadzwa, in Marange and buy diamonds at very cheap prices.Sometimes these diamond deals went sour with foreign dealers either being conned or arrested by local police. One such case is that of a dealer who was known as Nsala who got into a partnership with local dealer Tendai Blessing Mangwiro.
As with most partnerships, the relationship between Nsala and Mangwiro soured over a dispute about cash and diamonds.
A source who spoke to Breakingnewszw said “I believe this happened quite a while back maybe 2007- 2009. During this period believe it or not it was quite the ‘in thing’ to con foreign buyers of their money or even rob them because people where now realising the real value of diamonds and wanted ‘revenge’ for being hustled by these foreigners”
Nsala got Mangwiro arrested after a botched diamond deal. Mangwiro was put in custody and allegedly tortured by police who got a confession. On the strength of this confession police handed back the money to Nsala who immediately left the country.
It is this legal blunder that Mangwiro has acted on and sued the Home Affairs Ministry for the return of his money since he was later acquitted for the theft charge in 2012. Nsala was the key witness in the case and once he left the state was left exposed and Mangwiro secured an acquittal and proceeded to sue for the recovery of the money which had been seized as court exhibits.
Another source, a former diamond trader who refused to be named added “From what I understand this case came from a diamond deal gone bad. I believe Mangwiro got into a money dispute with Nsala and Nsala used many means to try to recover the money including having Mangwiro detained for a certain period. In this period I believe through torture of his accomplice they sort of got a confession and I think that is somehow they thought it was justified to release the money to Nsala.”
“Apparently Mangwiro later had his own trial and was acquitted because there was very little evidence and secondly Nsala had already left the country after receiving his money and he was the state’s main witness. Mangwiro always said vachandipa mari yangu (they will give me my money) like three or four years ago while he was quite poor driving a rickety old car and I never really paid attention to him. He was not a connected person then nor do I believe he is one now. This was just wheels of justice at play. I guess he got a smart lawyer who managed to get the Zimbabwe dollars back as well which was equivalent to 1.5mil by the crazy rates at that time but probably closer to $20 000 in reality.”
The circumstances of this case point towards poor or unlawful handling of evidence by either police or the courts in Mutare. Only a magistrate has the authority to release any property seized as evidence at the end of the trial. However in this case police released money before the trial was concluded.
Mangwiro’s lawyer told a local daily that police in Mutare had admitted of taking the money.
A legal practitioner who refused to be named said “If property is taken as an exhibit it’s kept at the exhibit room at court unless it can’t be kept there because for example it’s too big e.g. a lorry or the room is not suited to store it e.g. diamonds. It’s given a specific mark on it and the same is recorded in a book. It is released at the end of the trial after it has been produced as evidence at trial. It’s released to the accused if he is found not guilty. If found guilty it’s released to the person who is entitled to lawfully hold it. The Judge or Magistrate may order it be forfeited to the state or it be destroyed e.g. mbanje (marijuana).”
In the Mutare case Mangwiro was found not guilty of the crime he was accused of but authorities had already released the exhibit money to the complainant on the strength of the accused alleged confession. The courts have ruled that the accused be given back his money.
Those at the centre of the investigations could not give a satisfactory answer on how evidence was released before the conclusion of the trial.Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba did not answer questions sent to her about the whereabouts of the money which was in police custody.
The Zimbabwean taxpayers may be forced to pay for money that disappeared in lawful custody while government has not taken action to punish those who handled the matter then.