Court name
Bulawayo High Court
Case number
CRB 255 of 2000
256 of 2000

S v Nduna and Anor (CRB 255 of 2000, 256 of 2000) [2003] ZWBHC 48 (02 April 2003);

Law report citations
Media neutral citation
[2003] ZWBHC 48

                                                                                    Judgment No. HB 48/2003

                                                                                    Case No. HCA 34-5/2001

                                                                                    CRB 255-6/2000
















R Moyo-Majwabufor the applicants

Mrs M. Moya-Matshangafor the respondent


Criminal Appeal


            CHEDA J:     Appellants were convicted by the Regional Magistrate on 14


February 2001 and were sentenced to 6 years imprisonment of which 2 years


imprisonment was suspended on the usual conditions.  It is that finding that they now


appeal against.


            Appellants were members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police attached to the


Support Unit Branch, based at Fairbridge, Bulawayo.  During the months of


December 1998 they were deployed along the Zimbabwe/Botswana border in order to


crack down on the rampant robberies, rapes and border jumping.  One of them was


armed with a CZ pistol.  Whilst on patrol they came across the complainant whom


they robbed of six hundred dollars (Z$600), two hundred and fifty pula (P250) and a


few items which he had bought from Botswana.  They both pleaded not guilty.


            The thrust of their appeal is that there were discrepancies in the state’s case


which discrepancies should not have been ignored by the trial court and also by



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making a finding that the single evidence rule was enacted in section 270 of the


Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act [Chapter 9:07] yet it is in fact in section 269 which reads;


“Sufficiency of one witness in criminal cases, except perjury and treason


            It shall be lawful for the court by which any person prosecuted for any offence is tried to convict such person of any offence alleged against him in the indictment, summons or charge under trial on the single evidence of any competent and credible witness:

            Provided that it shall not be competent for any court –

  1. to convict any person of perjury on the evidence of any one witness as to the falsity of any statement made by the accused unless, in addition to and independently of the testimony of such witness, some other competent and credible evidence as to the falsity of such statement is given to such court;
  2. to convict any person of treason, except upon the evidence of two witnesses where one overt act is charged in the indictment or, where two or more such overt acts are so charged, upon the evidence of one witness to each such overt act;
  3. to convict any person on the single evidence of any witness of an offence in respect of which provision to the contrary is made by any enactment.”


This section if my understanding is correct gives the court power to convict


on the single evidence of any competent and credible witness.  The issue therefore, is


are the discrepancies in such witness’ testimony fatal.  This is what should be


addressed first.  It is quite common to find discrepancies in evidence but such


discrepancies are not necessarily an indication of falsehood on the part of the


deponent.  I fully associate myself with the approach in R v Juwaki and anor 1665 (1)


SA 792, in which QUENETJP at 606C-D stated;


“Where there are imperfections in the evidence of an accomplice and there is no corroboration of his evidence implicating the accused, the question remains whether there are other features which reduce the danger of false incrimination and, if there are, whether they reduce it to the point where there is no reasonable possibility that the accused has been falsely implicated.  Indeed, that was the manner in which CLAYDEN CJ approached the question of the correctness of the second appellant’s conviction in Lembikani’s case (1964 R & N 7).  And may I say that, in considering whether the danger of false incrimination has been satisfactorily removed, the need that the other features

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should be strong and significant must, in each case, be related to the quality and character of the accomplice’s evidence and the degree of its imperfection.”


            This principle was referred to with approval in S v Lawrence 1989 (1) ZLR 29




            Discrepancies in a case must be of such magnitude and value that it goes to the


root of the matter to such an extent that their presence would no doubt give a different


complexion of the matter altogether.  In my view discrepancies whose presence do not


usher in that change should be regarded as immaterial and as such of no value in the


determination of the truth or otherwise of the matter at hand.  In S v Makandigona


1981 ZLR 408 where the witness had made a previous inconsistent statement, BARON


JA at 411D-E stating the proper approach to evidence where there were


inconsistencies said:–


“Even without a previous inconsistent statement, and ignoring also that she was an obvious accomplice with an obvious interest to support the appellant, the proper approach of the court was to consider the evidence of all the witnesses, whether called by the prosecution or the defence, and to decide where the truth lay.”


            In the present case the evidence adduced before the court clearly points to the


fact that appellants were involved in the robbery of the complainant.  In the present


case the inconsistencies referred to by appellants’ legal practitioner are far much


outweighed by the corroborative evidence by the appellants themselves for example


the indications and the description of their clothes on the day of the commission of the




The next question then is to decide whether or not the reference to a wrong


section per se by error should result in the acquittal of the appellants.


            I agree with appellants that the trial magistrate referred to the provisions of


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section 270 which deal with evidence of an accomplice.  However, in my view, the


matter can not just end there.  Section 270 of the code refers to single evidence of an


accomplice.   While the magistrate referred to this section he, however, proceeded to


deal with this case with the application of the provisions and requirements of section


269 which deals with the sufficiency of evidence of a single competent and credible


witness.  This is confirmed by his reference to the case of Zimbawora v The State SC-


7-92 where EBRAHIMJA at page 2 of the cyclostyled judgment stated;


“The court a quo was entitled to convict the appellant on the single evidence of the complainant but it was necessary for such evidence to be clear and satisfactory in every material respect.  See R v Mokoena 1932 OPD 79 at 80; R v Ellis 1961 R & N 468; S vBwindura SC-125-82; S v Murenda SC-86-84; S v Jabangwa SC-25-89; S v Corbett SC-33-90; S v Shoko SC-88-90; S v Mpofu SC-161-90 and S v Gwanzura SC-44-91.”


            Reference to the principle stated above is, in my view, an indication that the


learned trial magistrate was live to the caution necessary in dealing with evidence


from a single competent and credible witness.  I could not see in the papers before me


any indication that the complainant was an accomplice.  It is clear that he was treated


as a complainant throughout the trial.  The fact that he is a confessed border jumper


which is a crime in its own way does not per se qualify him to be an accomplice.  His


evidence in relation to the present matter has nothing to do with his unlawful conduct


as a border jumper, if anything it adds credence to his credibility in that he made a


clean breast of his travel status.


            I hold the view that mere reference or wrong citation of a section on its own


without corroborative evidence that in addition to the wrong citation, the judicial


officer proceeded and continued to treat the matter under the wrong section is not


enough reason to treat such an error as being fatal to his decision.  It would be entirely


different if, in addition to the wrong citation he continued to labour under the same

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mistake, for that would clearly result in the wrong conclusion.


            Section 269 entitled the court to convict a person on the single evidence of any


competent and credible witness except where the person is charged with perjury,


treason or of an offence of which in respect of which provision to the contrary is made


by an enactment.  I therefore do not agree with appellants’ legal practitioner’s


argument on his understanding of the learned trial magistrate’s reasoning.


            As pointed out in Zimbawora’s case the evidence of a single witness has to be


clear and satisfactory.  The complainant gave his evidence very well and was


consistent throughout.  He had no reason to lie about the appellants and he indicated


the spots where he was taken to by the  appellants and they did not deny having been


with him on 24 December 1998.   The court a quo understood this evidence in its


clearest form and was duly satisfied with it, I also agree with him that the


evidence presented was not only clear but satisfactory in all material respects.


            Appellants have queried the sentence imposed as that which induces shock


because of its harshness.  The appellants were members of the police force who were


officially armed and were deployed to deal specifically with robbers along the


Zimbabwe/Botswana border.  Instead of protecting members of the public and


eliminating crime they, to the contrary of their duties went out to commit the very


crime they were supposed to prevent.  What more cheek would a police                 


officer have than this type of behaviour.  They saw the complainant who was a border


jumper whom they should have arrested, but instead chose to rob him of his property. 


They are indeed first offenders but I believe that this is one of the cases where the


courts should send a clear message to those in authority that such brazen abuse of


power will not be tolerated by these courts.  Appellants can therefore not escape being


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used as guinea pigs in this matter.


            I therefore find that the conviction and sentence is proper and this appeal must


accordingly fail.








                                                Ndou J …………………….. I agree



Messrs James, Moyo-Majwabu & Nyoniappellants’ legal practitioners

Criminal Division of the Attorney-General’s Officerespondent’s legal practitioners