Notorious war veteran jailed 6 years over 2002 cattle theft from white farmer

HARARE – A war veteran who terrorised white farmers in Mashonaland Central during the violent land invasions of the early 2000s was beginning a six-year prison sentence on Wednesday after he was convicted of stock theft.

Dzingai Nevhurenje, 64, stole 16 cattle from farmer Thomas Charles Bayley in 2002.

Harare magistrate Victoria Mashamba said Nevhurenje’s actions “distorted the agrarian reform.”

She conditionally suspended a year of Nevhurenje’s sentence, leaving him to serve an effective five years.

Speaking during sentencing, the magistrate said Mashamba was “lucky” he committed the crime before the law was changed to impose a minimum nine-year sentence for stock theft.

Nevhrenje’s case was sent for review at the High Court three times and once to the Supreme Court, but he was unsuccessful in getting the charges quashed.

The High Court ordered a retrial.

Said Mashamba: “When you committed the offence, it was because you wanted to implement what you fought for. But this did not go well because you ended up taking someone’s cattle.

“Moral blameworthiness is high because you were a commander and took advantage of your authority by stealing and distorting the agrarian reform.

“”You planned to steal because you sent the cattle to your farm in Mvurwi. You did not assist in the recovery of the cattle. You tried to fight against standing trial. You are lucky that at the time it was not nine years mandatory sentence for such crimes. The court shall not impose that nine-year mandatory sentence but will use common law.”

Mashamba also said she had decided against sentencing him per beast but treat his theft as one count.

“The court will not look at the number of cattle. A fine or a community service would trivialise the offence. A custodial sentence is merited. I will sentence you to six years imprisonment and one year on condition that you shall not commit a similar offence in a period of five years. You will serve five years effective without an option of a fine,” she ruled.

Bayley was the owner of Danburry Park Farm in Marlborough, Harare.

The National Prosecuting Authority proved that Nevhunjere and some youths invaded the farm on April 13, 2002, and prevented Bayley from returning.

They barricaded the entrance using poles and drums, and then forced Bayley’s family out of the farm. He had a herd of 977 cattle and 210 calves. Nevhunjere took custody of all the cattle.

On April 5 and 7, 2002, Nevhunjere then drove 20 cattle to his Omeath Farm in Mvurwi.

Sixteen beasts were recovered from Nevhunjere on November 13, 2003, after Bayley identified them.

The court also heard that on several occasions, the war veteran would order his gang of youths to slaughter cows for meat.

When Bayley was finally allowed to enter his farm on July 13, 2002, he collected 1,042 cattle, and discovered that 145 beasts were missing.

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