Machisa bail decision based on political rhetoric: Lawyer

HARARE - Beatrice Mtetwa, the lawyer representing incarcerated Zimrights director Okay Machisa says a magistrate who denied the human rights campaigner bail was acting on the instinct of political rhetoric.

She said Harare magistrate Tendai Mahwe “erred and misdirected himself” by denying her client bail.

The High Court is expected to rule on an application for bail brought by Mtetwa following the magistrate’s decision.

Mtetwa said this yesterday while arguing for bail on behalf of Machisa, who remains in custody after Mahwe denied him freedom on January 16.

Mtetwa said Mahwe wanted to be seen as “politically correct” and ignored Machisa’s explanation that he was not on the run as alleged by the State.

“The magistrate was looking for anything to refuse appellant (Machisa) bail. He (Mahwe) was to stand as an arbiter not to look for things to deny appellant bail.

“He knew that on the facts before him, the appellant was entitled to bail because the State had failed to controvert appellant’s evidence that he was not on the run,” said Mtetwa.

Prosecutor Innocent Chingarande conceded that Mahwe had misdirected himself in denying Machisa bail, but said the misdirection was not “gross so as to vitiate the whole decision”.

High Court judge Felistas Chatukuta will today rule on the application.

Mtetwa filed the appeal on January 17 but the bail hearing suffered a setback after being postponed four times.

Prosecutors allege Machisa together with Dorcas Shereni, Leo Chamahwinya, Farai Bhani and Tatenda Chinaka produced fake copies of voter registration certificates between May last year and this month, in a bid to defraud the Registrar General’s office.

The other four remain in custody after the High Court turned down their bail application.

They are all accused of forgery and conspiracy to commit fraud or publishing false statements prejudicial to the State.

It is alleged Bhani registered as a voter and acquired a certificate of registration, which the ZimRights officials used to create duplicate forms.

The court heard ZimRights officials allegedly used false names to complete the duplicate registration forms.

According to court papers, Chamahwinya allegedly used the completed fake documents at their offices for an analysis, which they intended using in criticising and tarnishing the Registrar General’s office.

The court heard that there was a possibility that the misrepresentation could cause “bloodshed or a chaotic situation in Zimbabwe” if the fake documents were detected during the 2013 general elections. - Tendai Kamhungira

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