A ZAMBIAN man and his four-year-old son drowned in the Zambezi River after Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers allegedly ordered him to swim across the river with the lad on his back as punishment for poaching fish on the Zimbabwean side.
The incident happened in 2010 at an island in Kazungula and the matter was only brought to court this week.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Thompson Mabhikwa who is on circuit in Hwange heard yesterday how Abel Ngandu who was aged 30 years and his son Dennis drowned while attempting to swim across the crocodile infested Zambezi River as accused persons Jeffrey Munkuli (40) and Benjamin Nhidza (39) were allegedly pointing guns at them.
Four other Zambians managed to swim across while Ngandu, who had earlier pleaded with the accused persons that he would not be able to swim with his son on his back drowned.
The two rangers had allegedly confiscated the deceased’s canoe, fish and nets.
Munkuli and Nhidza who are being represented pro-deo by Mr Givemore Mvhiringi of Mvhiringi and Associates are each facing two counts of murder.
They denied the charges saying the deceased and their colleagues jumped into the water in an attempt to evade arrest.
Justice Mabhikwa will deliver judgement today.
In their defence, the accused persons said their intention was to surrender the alleged fish poachers to police in Victoria Falls.
“We did not take away their canoe but we wanted to take everything together with the suspects to Victoria Falls Police. When we arrested them they said they feared being put in a Zimbabwean prison and said they wanted to go back to their country. When they fled towards the river we could not chase after them as they jumped into the water, “said Nhidza in defence.
Prosecutor, Mr Bheki Tshabalala said Munkuli and Nhidza gave the deceased and their colleagues three options: to be taken to the police, to be killed or to swim across the river without life jackets.
Allegations are that on October 16 in 2010, the two rangers were on patrol on Chomuzi Island when they saw five Zambians who had crossed into the Zimbabwean side illegally to catch fish.
They allegedly arrested them and confiscated a canoe, fishing nets and the fish before ordering them to swim back to their country.
Ngandu put his son on his back and they both drowned.
The accused persons allegedly watched as the two drowned and walked away without attempting to rescue them, the court was told.
The deceased’s bodies were recovered two days later on the Zambian side.
Munkuli and Nhidza were arrested following investigations.