Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala has said the State will appeal the High Court’s decision to acquit four suspects on a murder charge of their friend Kottana Chidyaonga.
The four—Ekaree Daniella Chaweza, Gilbert Ufulu Kalamiza, Timothy Mtilosanje and Diana Bhagwanji—cried silently as they walked out of the courtroom following their acquittal on Wednesday, with family and friends welcoming them with joy.
Chidyaonga, 23, died on January 3 2020 and according to police statements, the four said she died from a snake bite.
But in his ruling, Judge Thomson Ligowe said the evidence before the court did not prove any snake bite nor that the deceased was given any wrong drug, but rather that there was presence of a pesticide, Termik, in her body.
He observed that the State lacked evidence on who might have given the deceased the poison.
Stated the Judge: “Even on the basis of circumstantial evidence, the fact that the deceased had been with the accused persons away from Khala Restaurant from about 22:00 hours to the time she died cannot lead to the conclusion that the accused persons and no one else purposely gave her Termik.
“There could be suspicions against the accused persons with regard to death of the deceased, but as submitted by counsel for fourth accused, a suspicion, however strong, cannot be used as a basis for a conviction.”
The judge also explained to the court that the autopsy findings of pathologist Charles Dzamalala did not say how long it takes from the point of Termik ingestion for one to start convulsions, saying such information could have helped the investigator to determine where the deceased was, who she was with and what they did.
According to Dzamalala’s autopsy, which was released on January 13 2020, there was no mark of a snake bite on the deceased’s body but the cut was a semi-fresh wound of at least three days old.
The autopsy concluded that death was due to generalised haemolysis following acute poisoning with Termik.
The judge also faulted police for delaying to start investigations, arguing that according to lead investigator Blessings Chimaliro’s testimony, the law enforcers started treating the case as murder after the findings by Dzamalala.
The four were all granted bail in February this year after being remanded at Maula Prison.
In an interview, one of the lawyers for the accused Khwima Mchizi said the victory was a huge relief to his clients.
Mtilosanje was the deceased’s boyfriend while Bhagwanji was among the friends who were with Chidyaonga on the day she died.