Biti fights charges

 

HARARE - MDC Alliance principal Tendai Biti yesterday challenged the authority of Zimbabwean courts to prosecute him, arguing that he was “abducted” from the Zambian government, which denied him asylum on Wednesday.

Biti is being charged with contravening the Electoral Act by prematurely announcing the election results and inciting the violence that rocked Harare on August 1.

He told the court yesterday that after placing his appeal before the authorities in Zambia he was issued with an order to appear before Justice J. Siyalonga on August 8 and present his petition.

Biti told Harare magistrate Francis Mapfumo that after being put in the custody of Zambian immigration officials, he was later moved to Chirundu Police Station where three soldiers wearing balaclavas forced him out before he was attacked by a marauding crowd.

“I produced the order to show them that they were arresting me illegally. When I got out, Zimbabwean cars surrounded the place. They tried to manhandle me, they were now seven and there was commotion,” Biti testified.

“It was a tug-of-war, the unidentified people on the other end, me in the middle and some ladies, on the other hand, pulling me. The Zambia authorities came and told those people that what they were doing was illegal but I was still abducted and brought back to Zimbabwe.”

“No court in Zimbabwe should have jurisdiction over me and I should be before the Zambian court. I am facing political charges arising out of the mere fact that we took a different position against the powers-that-be in our country,” added Biti.

“The facts here say that I was with Jim Kunaka but I do not even know that character, it is said I drove a green Discovery but I do not even own that car. The address that they put as my residence does not belong to me and the events being described relate to a thug or an excitable 18-year-old not a person of my calibre.

“…for this reason the State does not even have a list of witnesses that they ordered me not to interfere with. They have admitted they want to start investigations now and that is because these are mere fabrications.”

Biti narrated how his 70-year-old mother had been subjected to threats and intimidation by unidentified men who broke into her residence and held her hostage for about seven hours demanding to know his location.

“My mother had just returned from a physio-therapy session when she found her house surrounded by unidentified men in suits and she watched people getting in and out of her house and was lucky enough that someone had alerted the press,” added Biti.

“That night she slept at a friend’s house and upon her return the following day more people were at her house. This time she was forced in, and her cell-phone taken away from her. The people kept demanding to know where I was and I do not believe that this was the police but rather the work of the military.”

Biti said his friend’s residence was also surrounded in the same fashion and had his brother’s vehicle shot at while in the company of two minors.

Biti’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa who led a full bench of lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the Zimbabwe agents who dragged the former Finance minister from Zambia had violated international statutes on Refugee Law.

Mtetwa said Biti had to move out of the country after realising that his life was in danger.

Prosecutor Gerald Uladi said the State had acted legally because there was a warrant of arrest authorising Biti’s arrest.

He said Biti was arrested on Zimbabwean soil by local police officers thus disputing any violation of international law.

Mtetwa disputed the warrant of arrest which she said was a “cooked up” document that did not even reflect the name of the magistrate who had issued it.

The arguments continue on August 15 with State leading evidence from the investigating officer.

The State is alleging that on July 30, Biti held a presser at 4951 Highlands in Harare.

Biti was quoted saying:” We have now received from our agents across the country...results of the election show that the next president of this country is Chamisa...”

According to the State, Biti acted unlawfully by announcing such results before the electoral board had done so.

It was further alleged that on August 1, Biti was with Kunaka and met some of the 60 demonstrators that clashed with the army in town.

Biti was quoted saying: Ahoi, Ahoi, Tshisa mpama tshisa endai munobvisa banner iro (go and remove that banner)”.

As a result, the court heard that Mnangagwa’s banner was stripped and burnt to ashes.

Biti is alleged to have parked his car at Zanu PF headquarters while rioters shattered window panes, burnt cars and vandalised property.

After the melee the demonstrators retired to Biti’s car.

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