A game ranger was last week saved from the hangman’s noose after the Supreme Court quashed his death sentence and conviction on murder charges.
Maxwell Bowa, who was employed by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority as a senior game ranger, was last year sentenced to death by High Court judge Justice Lawrence Kamocha for shooting a man 10 times during a botched operation to arrest elephant poachers.
Justice Paddington Garwe, sitting with Justices Vernanda Ziyambi and Ben Hlatshwayo, last week found Bowa not guilty of murder and quashed the death penalty imposed on him in October last year.
“In the present matter, the killing of the deceased, though unfortunate, was the result a bonafide attempt to apprehend persons who were believed to be armed and involved in poaching activities.
“In my view, the court a quo should have found that such indemnity attached to the appellant and consequently a verdict of not guilty entered,” ruled Justice Garwe.
The court also found that the High Court erred by not finding extenuating circumstances in the case.
“The court a quo was clearly in error in finding that no extenuating circumstances existed.
“The circumstances surrounding the death of the deceased, in my view, provided mute evidence of extenuation.
“The incident occurred on the spur of the moment during the execution of official duty, in poor visibility and in circumstances in which the appellant may have genuinely believed that harm was likely to befall him,” the court ruled.
Bowa (54) shot Lennon Nkosana (29) as he fled from a kitchen hut which had been surrounded by a 10-man strong team of rangers from the Parks authority and uniformed police officers.
The incident occurred in 2012 after an assistant commissioner with the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service was arrested at a roadblock for illegally possessing ivory.
On his arrest, the senior ZPCS officer implicated Tanaka Nyoni and Moses Makwavarara as the source of the ivory and the late Lenon Nkosana was also implicated as the courier of the ivory.
A team of 10 officers from the police and Parks authority was deployed to Simuchembu area in Gokwe to apprehend the suspects.
Upon arrival the named suspects were caught in a hut and Bowa shot at Nkosana while he tried to escape, Nkosana died from the gunshot injuries.
During the trial, Bowa told the court that he was acting in self-defence as Nkosana came out of the hut wielding an axe.