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“I am innocent, I did not kill him!”

*Zim man acquitted of murder after six years in jail

“I am sorry for the state for incriminating me for nothing. I am an innocent man. I did not kill that man. I was not even there when it happened!” exclaimed 33-year-old Thabani Mapunganyika as police officers ushered him into the back of their van parked outside Francistown High Court on Tuesday morning.

The Zimbabwean is being driven back to prison, his home for the last six years. It is his home no longer.

Minutes early, the father-of-three was acquitted of John Molefi Keletse’s murder, a former Biology teacher at Masunga Senior Secondary School who was shot dead at The Other Place Bar in Matsiloje on 20 December 2013.

“I am happy that I have been acquitted and discharged of the three robberies and a murder case. I am finally a free man!” beamed Mapunganyika, who intends to return to his family in Zimbabwe as soon as possible.

“I am going back to Bulawayo. I will never come back to Botswana; I would rather go to South Africa. I am a father to the three children who will be happy to see me,” continued the man who spent over half a decade locked up for a crime the state could not prove he committed.

Mapunganyika’s relief is tinged with sadness however, as he reveals he was only recently told of his father’s passing.

“My father is said to have died last year but I only heard last week,” he told The Voice.

Mapunganyika was one of four men suspected to have raided The Other Place Bar in an armed robbery over six years ago.

The victim, Keletse, had been drinking at the bar and was shot dead during the robbery.

The robbers are said to have ordered everyone to lie down before firing warning shots into the air. They then made away with cash and cellphones.

The suspects were arrested soon after but Mapunganyika’s co-accused escaped from Gerald Center of Illegal Immigrants back in January 2017.

The three men remain at large as does the murder weapon which was never retrieved.

During his trial, the state’s case against Mapunganyika relied heavily on eye-witnesses who picked out the Zimbabwean in an Identification Parade.

However, it was successfully argued on behalf of the accused that the manner in which the ID parade was conducted was flawed as the state failed to adhere to the safeguards normally employed in cases of such nature.

Presiding over the case, Justice Bengbame Sechele ruled, “The accused complicity in the commission of the crime has not been well established so he is acquitted and discharged of one count of murder and three counts of robbery.”

It was a judgment that had Mapunganyika smiling for perhaps the first time in six years.

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