BY Nkululeko Sibanda

BULAWAYO High Court judge, Justice Thompson Mabhikwa has freed a 34-year-old city man who was in 2016 slapped with a 12-year jail term on 49 counts of fraud.

In his judgment obtained by NewsDay yesterday, Justice Mabhikwa said that it was “sheer coincidence” that all institutions that claimed to have received payment from Audriane Ndebele had all issued receipts which had been presented in the lower court and said to be fake.

“In a long judgment, the trial magistrate reasoned, in the main, that the complainants are many and varied. They also operate independently. She resolved that apart from the utility/service providers such as Zesa and the Bulawayo City Council, institutions such as CBZ and Zimra also operate independently of each other,” he said.

“She (the magistrate) thus reasoned that when they all contend that they did not receive the monies supposedly paid to them despite receipts and deposit slips produced by the accused which they all claim do not originate from their institutions, it is more than sheer coincidence.”

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Justice Mabhikwa said the High Court was convinced that the evidence produced by the State witnesses was of no evidential value, thus could not build a strong case against Ndebele.

The judge also said that it was surprising that in 14 of the 49 counts, there were no cash slips but the lower court, in its wisdom, saw it fit to jail Ndebele despite the absence of evidence to nail him down.

It was the State case at the time that Ndebele was employed by various complainants as a messenger.

His duties among others included going to the bank to make deposits, making payments at the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) as well as utility bill payments at the Bulawayo City Council on behalf of the complainants.

The State further alleged that in his capacity as a messenger, Ndebele received varying sums of money from a host of complainants for banking and payment of utility bills.

However, the State alleged then that Ndebele, on 49 occasions, converted the money to personal use.

The State averred that Ndebele would, after commission of the said crimes, allegedly present fake receipts which he claimed were proof of payment.

Bulawayo-based lawyer, Maqhawe Mpofu of Samp, Mlaudzi Legal Attorneys represented Ndebele.