By Vusisizwe Mkhwananzi
Gwanda, February 16, 2016 – A war veteran who was accused of cutting down over three kilometers of fencing wire from a white owned West Nicholson farm in Matabeleland South has escaped custodial sentence when he was dragged before a Gwanda magistrates’ court over theft charges.
John Dube, aged 74, of Johnsly Resettlement area, last week pleaded guilty to theft when he appeared before Gwanda provincial magistrate Maphios Moyo.
Dube was sentenced to six months in prison, which were wholly suspended for five years on condition he does not commit a case of theft within that period.
The magistrate berated him, saying he ought to respect other people’s property.
He felt his sentence could have been more severe but considered that Dube had not benefited from the offence since the wire had been recovered.
The court heard that on the 7th of this month, Dube went to Johnsly Ranch owned by Martin Simone and cut 16x200m of plain wire and went away unnoticed.
The next day two game scouts who were doing their routine patrols discovered that the wire had been stolen and traced some footprints which led them to Dube’s homestead where they recovered the stolen wire.
Most white farmers in the province have had their properties destroyed as they resist moves by government to force them out of their farms under government’s land reform programme.
Banana farmer George Watson of Gwanda last year had almost 60km of his boundary fence destroyed by war veterans who wanted him out of Double “O” ranch in Gwanda.
Watson survived eviction after Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko who intends setting up a banana project intervened and stalled his eviction.
A few remaining white farmers in the region are facing eviction from their pieces of land and have appeared at the same courts charged with unlawfully occupying gazetted land.