By Mary Taruvinga
NEARLY four years after he was convicted and sentenced nine years for a foiled attempt to bomb the former First Family’s Alpha Omega Dairy plant in Mazowe, Zimbabwe People’s Front political party leader Owen Kuchata has come out of his shell saying he was forced to admit to the crime.
Kuchata was convicted for charges of insurgency, sabotage, banditry or terrorism, at own guilty plea by Harare magistrate, Hosea Mujaya in February 2016.
He was jointly charged with Solomon Makumbe, Silas Pfupa who got former Prosecutor General (PG) Johannes Tomana fired after the latter turned them into state witnesses.
The other suspected accomplice, Borman Ngwenya was acquitted after a full trial in May the same year.
Ngwenya was a Zimbabwe National Army corporal while Makumbe and Pfupa were intelligence officers.
In his court application now before the High Court, Kuchata said the magistrate who convicted him, Mujaya erred by not advising of his rights including rights to legal representation.
He is seeking recession of Mujaya’s ruling.
“The present application is for review of proceedings made by magistrate Hosea Mujaya sitting at Harare magistrates court in Harare,” he said.
“He erred in the proceedings by not advising me of rights to a legal representation as an accused person during trial as enshrined in Section 70 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The plea of guilty I made was not made freely and voluntarily,” Kuchata said.
He went on to explain, “When I was in court, the man who had brutally assaulted me and instructed me that when I get in court, I should admit to such charges was sitting in the gallery.
“I believe that man was a state agent since he was part of the officers who had heavily beaten and tortured me.
“The magistrates even saw him and his actions when I was in the dock and to some extent asked him if he was a member of the press.”
Kuchata persuaded the High Court to visit a record of proceedings regarding this issue.
He said if Mujaya had advised me of my right to legal representation just before the proceedings, he would have requested the services of a legal practitioner to represent him warranting a fair hearing.
“I was subjected to torture and threatened with disappearance and told that dire consequences would occur to my family unless if I made an admission as instructed during intensive hostile and prolonged questioning at the hands of state agents.”
Kuchata admitted he tried to petrol bomb the dairy farm belonging to the late former President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace.
During plea recordings, he told court that, “Since I am representing the rights of other Zimbabweans, I had the right to bomb his (Mugabe) private property because he is causing disorder and problems in this country”.
He went on to narrate how they plotted to execute their plan.
Kuchata however excepted to the charge of terrorism arguing that Alpha Omega Dairy was not a government property hence the terrorism charge did not stick.
It is state’s case when the four were arrested, it was discovered that they went through militia training in Mapinga where they planned to commit terror acts.
The court heard they then went to Mugabe’s rural home in Zvimba where they carried investigations identifying suitable vulnerable points to sabotage.
The four were arrested after police were tipped off on their mission.
Acting on the tip-off the police proceeded to the farm and laid an ambush about 100 metres from the quartet’s target.
When they arrived on the scene, the detectives then showed up and identified themselves before they searched the four to find Molotov cocktails (bombs), ammonium nitrate, nails and sand.