LUPANE — A witness in the trial of a senior Zanu PF Matabeleland North province official, John Robert Khumalo (57), facing charges of theft of engines, told the court that the accused told him he committed the crime to finance his daughter’s wedding.
Khumalo is reported to have said he was ailing and did not want to die before organising his daughter’s wedding.
This was said by one of the key State witnesses, Buster Willie Magwizi (64), a Zipra veteran, who was allegedly sold one of the two diesel-powered water engines by Khumalo.
“He told me he wanted his daughter to wed before he dies since he is too ill. He asked me to assist by buying the engine at $2 500,” Magwizi said.
Khumalo is facing two counts of theft of two community water engines worth $7 600.
Khumalo pleaded not guilty to theft charges when he appeared before Lupane magistrate Takudzwa Gwazemba.
It is the State case that Khumalo was a ward councillor in Jotsholo some time in the 1990s when a non-governmental organisation, the Norwegian Development Agency, donated the Lister engines.
The engines were given to Kwarayi and Solobela villages where Khumalo was a councillor and were meant for cattle-rearing pilot projects.
The court heard that due to vandalism of public property in the area, the engines were removed from the projects and kept by villagers at their homes.
The court heard that after Khumalo lost his seat in 2008, he approached the villagers who were in custody of the engines.
He asked the villagers to hand them over to him on the pretext that he wanted to take them for service.
The Zanu PF official also allegedly claimed the suppliers wanted the other engine back because it had not been paid for by the donor.
Early last year, Solobela villagers realising that Khumalo was not returning the engine, reported the matter to the police.
Investigations led to the recovery of one of the engines from Magwizi’s home in Bulawayo, while the other one was recovered from a Gwayi safari operator, Cristal Dube (46).
Magwizi said he bought the engine from Khumalo for $1 600 while Dube said he had borrowed the engine from Khumalo as they were neighbours at their farms.
Khumalo co-owns Sotani Farm with Magwizi. The engines are worth $3 800 each.
Testifying in court, Magwizi said Khumalo told him he was not feeling well and was selling an engine to prepare for his daughter’s wedding.
They agreed on the price of $1 600 which Magwizi claims he paid.
Magwizi said he was surprised when the police told him the engine was stolen.
The magistrate remanded Khumalo to December 8 for continuation of trial.
Khumalo is out of custody on $100 bail. Solomon Mguni of Hwalima, Moyo and Associates is representing him.