Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
NORTON council has been acquitted of culpable homicide charges involving the death of a man who was electrocuted while working on the construction of a church building in the town.
Lovejoy Mwandiambira was part of the group applying water to a concrete form on the building when he was electrocuted.
Norton, represented by Bester Maramba was charged along with Christ Citadel International Church (CCIC) representative, Lindani Ndaba, on charges of culpable homicide.
It was accused of failing to stop the construction of the church’s double storey building regardless of danger warnings from the Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company (ZETDC).
It denied the charges when the trial began at Harare Magistrates’ court.
After the State closed its case, the council through its legal counsel applied for a discharge, but the trial magistrate ruled it had a case to answer.
The trial court then ordered both the council and church to be placed on their defence.
Dissatisfied with the decision, the council approached the High Court on review seeking to set aside the decision.
Justice Jacob Manzunzu quashed the trial court’s decision and cleared the council of the charges, noting that it should have been discharged at the close of the State case and acquitted.
In his ruling, the judge said after reading the ruling by the trial magistrate, could not find evidence establishing a prima facie case against Norton.
Justice Manzunzu accepted the council’s contention that the refusal to discharge it at the close of the State case was grossly unreasonable and bad at law in that the court’s findings were not congruent with the decision made.
“The application for review succeeds with no order as to costs,” he said.
“The respondent’s decision of the 10th September 2019, dismissing applicant, Norton Town Council’s application for discharge at the close of the State case be and is hereby set aside,” added the judge acquitting the council of the charge.
Norton applied for a discharge at the close of the State case arguing that the State had failed to prove a prima facie case against it.
But the court dismissed the application and ordered both the council and the church to be placed on their defence.
Charges against both organisations after CCIC in 2014, bought a stand and started developing it in Ngoni Township Norton constructing a double storey church.
Norton was accused of negligent for allegedly issuing CCIC with the land knowing that there was an 11kv overhead electric line directly above the stand.
It was alleged the council approved the building plan for the double storey structure without checking pertinent existing infrastructure.
They failed to inspect the construction of the building, exposing the public and or workers carrying out the construction of the church building to electrocution by the electric power line.
CCIC being the owner of the building responsible for its construction was negligent in that it embarked on and continued with the construction of the church without relocating the overhead electric line.
The church continued with its construction despite several warnings from the ZETDC to stop construction workers pending relocation of the electric line, the court heard.
The church regardless of all the warnings failed to put measures in place to stop individuals from giving up the first floor where there was poor clearance with the live conductors.
It is stated that the church failed to supervise the construction activities which resulted in Mwandiambira being electrocuted.
As the construction work continued on site, the stair began encroaching to the way leaves and the live conductors and no barricade signs were put to stop individuals from going up to the first floor where there was poor clearance and a danger to lives.
On December 4, 2014 and in the morning, Mwandiambira was part of the group applying water to a concrete form on the building. His neck came in contact with the power line before he was electrocuted and died on the spot.