Tuesday, 30 January 2018


A Chitungwiza man who was found in possession of an elephant tusk, left the court gallery in stitches when he changed his “not guilty” plea to “guilty” after a full trial, indicating that it was not his intention to waste the court’s time by denying the charge, but had been forced by his lawyer to deny it.

Onisimo Tafiraje (31) pleaded not guilty when his trial commenced before Harare magistrate Ms Josephine Sande. After a fully contested trial, Tafiraje was found guilty of the charge.

On the day of the sentence, his lawyer did not show up and during mitigation, Tafiraje, who was now a self-actor, pleaded for the court’s leniency, saying that he had been forced by his lawyer to deny the charge. He added that he wanted to say the truth from the onset, but had to follow his lawyer’s advice. Tafiraje admitted to have been found in possession of the tusk worth $173.

He failed to give any special circumstances to have the mandatory sentence reduced. Ms Sande then sentenced him to nine years behind bars and an additional year for wasting the court’s time. He will serve an effective 10-year prison term.

“The offence you committed is serious in nature and I have not found special circumstances to persuade me from departing from the minimum sentence,” said Ms Sande. “I will add another year for wasting the court’s time by denying the obvious.”

In aggravation, Ms Francesca Mukumbiri said offences of that nature were on the increase, hence it ,was the duty of the court to safe guard the specially protected animals, lest they become extinct. She then called for a lengthy custodial sentence.

On December 29 last year at around 10am, detectives from the Minerals and Border Control Unit received information that Tafiraje was in possession of an elephant tusk and was looking for a buyer in Chitungwiza.

The detectives proceeded to Chitungwiza where they met Tafiraje at Zengeza shopping centre after posing as buyers. Tafiraje got into the detective’s vehicle and took out the elephant tusk from his satchel and handed it to one of the detectives. The detectives then identified themselves and Tafiraje was arrested. Herald


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