By Mary Taruvinga
AN appeal by MDC Vice President, Tendai Biti, who was convicted for unlawfully announcing election results in 2018, will be heard in May this year.
Biti was convicted and sentenced to six months for the offence, but escaped custodial sentence after presiding magistrate Gloria Takundwa wholly suspended the jail sentence for five years on condition he did not commit a similar offence within the period.
He was facing two counts of contravening the Electoral Act and was convicted for both offences in February last year.
However, Biti was fined $200 or seven days imprisonment for the first count while on the second count, six months were wholly suspended on condition of good behaviour.
The appeal hearing was supposed to kick off on Monday this week, but was postponed to May 11 2020 after the prosecutor handling the case failed to attend court.
“Mr (Editor) Mauto is reportedly attending a family bereavement and the case will now be heard on May 11,” said Biti’s lawyer Alec Muchadehama.
Soon after his conviction, Biti vowed to appeal arguing he was not a criminal and did not deserve to be treated as such.
Muchadehama also argued that the State’s case was poor as no witness had ever challenged Biti’s defence during trial.
“We are going to appeal against both conviction and sentence and the basis of our appeal is that the magistrate misdirected herself in several respects,” said Muchadehama.
“Firstly, she has dismissed that she had no jurisdiction to hear the matter when in fact she had no authority to handle the case. The charges were unnecessarily split, but nonetheless, the magistrate convicted Tendai on both counts.
“Thirdly, the State witnesses’ evidence case was too poor to bring out a conviction.”
Biti was convicted of unlawfully announcing results of the highly disputed July 2018 election when the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was still to give the official outcome.
The firebrand politician and lawyer was also accused of declaring then MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa, winner of the poll.
Chamisa came a close second to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, according to ZEC.
High Court judges, Felistas Chatukuta and Pisirayi Kwenda will hear the appeal.
Biti is also being represented by another top lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa.