Saturday, 25 May 2019

COUNCIL ACQUITTED IN ELECTROCUTION CASE


THE High Court has set aside conviction and sentence against Bulawayo City Council (BCC) which was fined $600 for culpable homicide after a boy from Magwegwe suburb was electrocuted while standing near a street tower light.

The ruling by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese, who was sitting with Justice Maxwell Takuva during a criminal appeals court, follows an application by BCC challenging its conviction and sentence by Bulawayo magistrate Ms Gladmore Mushove.

In papers before the court, BCC through its lawyers Coghlan and Welsh Legal Practitioners, is the appellant while the State represented by Mr Khumbulani Ndlovu of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was cited as a respondent. 

BCC, which was represented by its electro-mechanical engineer Mr Mente Ndlovu, was last year convicted of culpable homicide by Ms Mushove and fined $600. This was after a boy from Magwegwe suburb was in December 2013 electrocuted to death after he touched a live power cable while standing near a BCC tower light at Induba playground.

Justice Makonese ruled that BCC could not be held liable for the death of the boy, arguing that there was an act of negligence on the part of the deceased which led to his death.

“The appellant was not the sole cause of the deceased’s death. It can’t be disputed that the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) had no role at all in ensuring that electricity supply is safely distributed. In the result, it is this court’s view that the conviction and sentence cannot be sustained. Accordingly, it is ordered that the appeal succeeds and conviction and sentence are set aside,” ruled the judge.

According to papers before the court on December 5, 2013, Shepherd Mgcini Mpala of Magwegwe suburb went to Induba playground in Iminyela suburb to play a social soccer match with his friends. 

After his team had been knocked out of the tournament, he decided to stand near a tower light to watch the game.

He was electrocuted after he got in contact with a live power cable at a tower light close to Induba football pitch.

In its heads of argument, BCC through its lawyer Mr Norman Mangena, said the lower court erred and misdirected itself by convicting the appellant, arguing that there was no basis of attributing negligence and consequently culpable homicide to the council. “It is submitted that, in its judgment, the court a quo actually acknowledged the issue of vandalism hence negligence could not in the circumstances be attributed to the appellant who was not responsible for vandalism. The magistrate erred by concluding that the appellant was negligent on the basis of the evidence given, which clearly showed the deceased’s own contribution to his fate through holding to and swinging on the cable, as well as the vandalism of the same cable, was wrong,” argued Mr Mangena.

The State did not oppose the application. Chronicle

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