Court name
Harare High Court
Case number
CRB N 732 of 2006
CRB N 733 of 2006

S v Makonora & Anor (CRB N 732 of 2006, CRB N 733 of 2006) [2011] ZWHHC 42 (13 February 2011);

Law report citations
Media neutral citation
[2011] ZWHHC 42

THE STATE

versus

TALENT MAKONORA

and

RICHARD ZULU

 

 

HIGH COURT OF ZIMBABWE

CHITAKUNYE J

HARARE, February 14, 2011.

 

 

Criminal review

 

 

CHITAKUNYE J:  The two accused persons were jointly charged with four counts of stock theft. They pleaded not guilty to all the counts but were convicted of all the counts at the end of a full trial.

In the first count the accused were alleged to have stolen two heifers in March 2005 of which one was recovered in July 2006. In the second count they were alleged to have stolen two black steers in March 2006 of which one was recovered in July 2006. In the third count the accused were alleged to have stolen two cattle from the grazing area on 2 May 2006 of which one was recovered in July 2006. In the last count the accused were alleged to have stolen two heifers from a cattle pen in the midst of the night on a date in May 2006. The two heifers were both recovered in July 2006.

The accused were both convicted of all the counts after a contested trial. The convictions are proper as there was overwhelming evidence against the accused persons. The convictions will thus be confirmed.

In assessing sentence the trial treated all the four counts as one and sentenced each accused as follows:

 

“36 years imprisonment of which 11 years imprisonment is suspended for 5 years on condition that the accused does not within that period commit any offence involving dishonest for which upon conviction he is sentenced to imprisonment without a fine option.”

 

Two issues concerned me in this case. Firstly, the appropriateness of treating all the counts as one for sentence and secondly, the efficacy of suspending a lengthy imprisonment term when an accused is to serve a long term of imprisonment.

In his reasons for sentence the trial magistrate did not state his reasons for treating all the counts as one for sentence. I am of the firm view that where a sentencing officer decides to treat multiple counts or some of them as one for sentence he ought to give his reasons for such option. Treating multiple counts as one for sentence should not be done arbitrary. Failure to give the rationale for treating multiple counts as one for sentence is a misdirection. Apart from assisting the reviewing judge in ascertaining whether the counts were properly treated as one for sentence, the accused person being so sentenced must be told why the counts are being treated as one.

In S vChawasarira 1991(1) ZLR 66 (H) SMITH J had occasion to deal with this issue. At p 69D-E he stated that-

“Separate punishments should, save in exceptional cases, be imposed for each separate charge. One globular sentence for two or more offences should only be considered where the offences are of the same or similar in nature and are closely linked in point of time. If these two requirements are not satisfied then a separate sentence must be imposed in respect of each offence.”

 

Equally in S v Banda 1984 (1) ZLR 96(H) WADDINGTON J held that:

 

“Before counts are treated as one for sentence, there should be some relationship between them. It is wrong to treat as one for sentence counts which are separated in time and place. It is also wrong to impose inappropriate sentences on individual counts in order to arrive at an appropriate aggregate sentence. Each count should be treated separately on its own merit. If the cumulative sentence is excessive, then the court may order some sentences to run concurrently or suspend portion of the total sentence.”

 

In casu, whilst the offences are similar, in that they are all stock theft offences, they were however not closely linked in point of time and place. The offences were committed over a period of a year. If for some reason the sentencing officer felt that justice required that such counts be treated as one for sentence he ought to have provided reasons for treating the counts as one.

My other concern is on the appropriateness of suspending a lengthy prison term on condition of good behavior. I am of the view that no useful purpose is served by the suspension of a long imprisonment term where the effective term is very long. In Attorney General vPaweni Trading Corp (Pvt)Ltd & Ors 1990 (1) ZLR 24 (2) at p 43G-H KORSAH JA opined that:

“I do not think that were a convicted person is to under go a very lengthy sentence, such as was imposed by the trial court, anything is to be gained by suspending seven years on condition of good behavior.”

 

Similar sentiments were expressed in S v Kanhukamwe 1987 (1) ZLR 158 (S).

In casu clearly no useful purpose would be served by suspending eleven years.

Another aspect militating against treating all the counts as one is that the offences for which the accused were convicted of carry a mandatory minimum sentence of nine years per count unless the court makes a finding that there are special circumstances why the mandatory minimum sentence should not be imposed. To that effect s 114(2) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Chapter 9:23 provides that:-

“Any person who takes livestock or its produce-

 

  1. knowing that another person is entitled to own, possess or control the livestock or its produce or realizing that there is a real risk or possibility that another person may be so entitled; and
  2.  intending to deprive the other person permanently of his or her ownership, possession or control, or realizing that there is a real risk or possibility that he or she may so deprive the other person of his or her ownership, possession or control;

 

shall be guilty of stock theft and liable-

 

  1. if the stock theft involved any bovine or equine animal stolen in the circumstances described in para (a) or (b), and there are no special circumstances in the particular case as provided in subs (3), to imprisonment for a period of not less than nine years or more than twenty-five years..” 

   

Incasu no special circumstances were found and so the accused faced imprisonment for a period of not less than nine years in respect of each count. Instead of passing individual sentences of nine years per count the trial magistrate aggregated the sentences of nine years per count to arrive at a total of thirty six years and imposed it as one sentence. That approach is wrong.

As noted by KUDYA J in S vHuni & Ors HH 147-09:

 

 “where the accused has been convicted on more than one count, to treat both or  all of them as one for the purposes of sentence defeats the clear intention of the legislature, that there should be an effective mandatory minimum penalty of nine years per count..”

 

The trial magistrate ought to have passed individual sentences for each count. The options would then be to either order the accused to serve the total of thirty six years or to order that some of the counts run concurrently if the trial magistrate felt an effective thirty six years imprisonment was too harsh.

It was also not competent for the trial magistrate to suspend portions of the mandatory minimum sentence. The portion that may be suspended is a portion that is in excess of the mandatory minimum sentence. For instance if in a count he had sentence the accused to say twelve years  instead of nine years then the portion available for suspension would be a period of three years.

 

Accordingly, the globular sentence is hereby set aside and is substituted by the following sentences:

 

For each accused-

 

                          Count 1.  9years imprisonment;

                          Count 2.  9 years imprisonment;

                          Count 3. 9years imprisonment; and

                          Count 4.  9years imprisonment.

 

The sentence in count 2 will run concurrently with the sentence in count 1 and the sentence in count 4 will run concurrently with the sentence in count 3.

The total effective sentence – 18 years imprisonment.

 

 

 

KUDYA J: agrees………………………