COURT: Investigating officer withers under fire from Biti’s lawyer

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By Mary Taruvinga

THE investigating officer (IO) in Tendai Biti’s court case insisted Thursday the MDC Alliance principal was wrong to announce July 30 election results even though he is protected by a provision in the relevant statute.

Biti is accused of contravening the Electoral Act after he announced presidential election results and also of inciting protests which resulted in deadly violence that left six people dead and several others injured.

The opposition politician was arrested after a dramatic bid to seek political asylum in neighbouring Zambia failed, with Lusaka refusing to grant the protection and sending him back to Harare.

As he was grilled by lawyers representing the former finance minister, IO Jealousy Nyabasa said did not matter that there was an electoral act section which authorises publication of information derived from polling stations-based returns.

The defence lawyers argued that the presidential election result was already public information when V11 forms were pasted outside polling stations.

As such Biti did not announce results before Zimbabwe electoral Commission (ZEC) which is mandated to do so did.

“Do you agree that Section 66 (a) (iii) specifically authorises the publication of information derived from polling stations-based returns,” Nyabasa was challenged by one of the lawyers, Beatrice Mtetwa, and he responded in the positive.

But when asked he was alleging that Biti committed the crime Nyabasa said, “I know the section.

“Yes, it exists but the fact remains the accused announced the presidential election results before authorities did.”

Beatrice Mtetwa

Further asked why he did not bother to call Biti’s lawyers to bring him to the police station, the police officer accused the attorneys of betrayal.

He acknowledged that the lawyers indeed approached the police law and order section at Harare Central Police Station enquiring whether their client was a wanted person.

Court heard the lawyers went on to leave their contact details after police officers told them that Biti was not wanted at the station.

However, no police officer phoned the lawyers requesting to interview Biti between August 2 and 8.

The lawyers also told court that following news reports indicating that their client was wanted, they made attempts to get confirmation form police commissioner general Godwin Matanga who ignored their inquiry.

However, Nyabasa said it was not the duty of police to phone all the lawyers of an accused person to bring the offender to the station for interviews.

“The lawyers betrayed me because I expected them to bring the accused to the station for interviews after it was reported that he was wanted in the media,” he said.

“I was informed that (Biti’s lawyer Alec) Muchadehama had promised to bring the accused for interviews at the station at 2pm on August 1 so there was no need to call.

“I waited until august 8 when I heard he was spotted at Chirundu border post, then I knew the lawyers had deceived me.”

He also told court that national police spokesperson Charity Charamba held a press conference in which she indicated that the police were still keen to interview Biti.

Nyabasa said that was enough to have compelled the opposition politician to visit police between 1 and 8 August.

Biti was arrested for unlawfully announcing presidential election results before ZEC did.

He is also accused of inciting protests which left six people dead on August 1 this year.

Biti is denying the allegations arguing that ZEC first announced the results when its agents posted V11 forms outside polling stations.

He also denied ever inciting violence and he is challenging his arrest and the court’s jurisdiction to preside over his case.

Biti contends that he should be in Zambia adding that he was abducted by state agents back to Zimbabwe while he was seeking refuge status in Zambia when he felt his life was threatened.

The case was adjourned to Friday for continuation.