‘‘I am Aged 14, not 19’’- Murder Accused

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The arraignment of a suspect in a recent Matshelagabedi murder case took a sudden twist yesterday, when the male suspect told Francistown Magistrate Court he is 14 years old and not 19 as stated on the charge sheet.

Mthungameli Sibanda who hails from Zimbabwe allegedly killed his fellow countryman, 49-year-old Senzo Mpofu who was working as a herd boy in Sekukwe lands, in Matshelagabedi. Mpofu was found by passersby on Monday, lying lifeless and covered with deep wounds all over his body.

With court thrown into a temporary disarray, charges could not be read to the accused, since Sibanda claimed he was under age.

“We cannot put the charges to the accused. He is a minor, he says he is under age.  The matter has to be stood down until you bring a social worker today. I cannot remand; I need to be specific where he has to go when I remand him”, highlighted Principal Magistrate Kabelo Magetse.

Reeling in disbelief and shocked at the turn out of the events, prosecution unsuccessfully objected, positing that the accused was an adult and legible to be charged. Magistrate Magetse was unrelenting.

“What did you use to verify or confirm that he is indeed 19 years old? He says he is a minor. Please check with his relatives, the people he was working or living with”. Magistrate Magetse quizzed the prosecutor.

“I need evidence to convince me otherwise. A holding cell is not a conducive place; let alone for a minor.”

“You need to avail a social worker and a legal representative for the accused.  We need to know the accused real age. In the mean time we treat him as a minor,” continued the Magistrate.

A few hours of adjournment, in the presence of a social worker and an attorney from legal aid, Magistrate ordered medical tests be conducted to determine Sibanda’s age.

“The necessary medical examinations and tests should be conducted to determine the accused’s age. After the tests, the accused must immediately be kept in custody at Moshupa boys’ prison. He shall not be handcuffed or put in leg irons,” ordered Magetse.

“Prosecution is also to trace the parents of the accused through the help of Interpol. In the next hearing we hope the parents will be present with the accused’s birth certificate.” The accused returns to court on the 4th of July.

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