By Tendai Kamhungira and Tarisai Machakaire
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s allies have gone through what could rank as their worst week in which two of their most vocal wordsmiths are battling to regain their freedom, while their godfather was still undergoing treatment in South Africa following suspected food poisoning, the Daily News can report.
It has really been another bad week for Energy Mutodi, who was arrested last week on charges of undermining the authority of the president and causing disaffection among the defence forces. Mutodi, who has taken his lobby for a Mnangagwa presidency to social media, will endure yet another weekend behind bars after his bail appeal hearing failed to take off at the High Court yesterday.
The businessman-cum-politician was arrested last week following his Facebook post in which he warned President Robert Mugabe of dire consequences in the event he failed to handle the burning succession in his party.
Mutodi is currently in remand prison after he was denied bail at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts, forcing him to file an appeal at the High Court, which was slated for hearing yesterday. However, the record of proceedings from the Harare Magistrates’ Courts detailing reasons for his bail denial by the lower court was not available for the matter to be heard yesterday, resulting in High Court judge Clement Phiri postponing the matter to next Tuesday.
His lawyer Taona Nyamakura made an undertaking to facilitate the availability of the record of proceedings from the Harare Magistrates’ Courts so that the appeal can be heard.
Mutodi has vowed to challenge his arrest when he comes back to court on August 25, according to his bail appeal papers.
“Appellant (Mutodi) has given notice that he will challenge the basis of his arrest at the next remand date on the basis that the article read as a whole does not disclose an offence and that his arrest violates his rights under Section 49 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe (right to personal liberty), on the basis that he was arrested on incorrect information; Section 50 in that he was not advised, on arrest, of the correct reasons for his arrest and the reasons were only furnished when he was warned and cautioned on different split charges; Section 56 (equality and non-discrimination), in that he is being charged for making a political commentary on an issue of public interest on which many other political commentators have commented and that he is the only one selected for arrest,” Mutodi said.
Mutodi argued that the provincial magistrate who handled his bail application, Elisha Singano, erred and misdirected himself by denying him bail based on “facts and grounds” that he created on his own, which were not relied upon by the State.
He said there are no compelling reasons advanced by the State warranting him not to be released on $100 bail, with a condition for him to report to the police once a week.
Mutodi also argued that there are no grounded reasons that would warrant him to abscond if released on bail, as he is a Zimbabwean, with businesses that he runs locally.
He further said subsequent punishment if convicted is a fine, which in itself is not an inducement for him to take flight.
Mutodi also defended his commentary, arguing that it was based on a speech that had been made by Mugabe and does not warrant any criminal charges, adding that in any event, he has a right to freely express himself as ascribed by the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Another of Mnangagwa’s allies, Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) secretary-general, Victor Matemadanda, also remained caged at the time of going to print yesterday, with his legal counsel trying everything possible to get his release but without success.
Matemadanda is being charged with undermining authority of or insulting the president.
His lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, yesterday said the court process had been stage-managed and pushed for Harare provincial magistrate Elisha Singano’s recusal because he was likely to make the same decisions detrimental to his client as in the Mutodi case.
Mtetwa said her argument was based on an alleged secret meeting the magistrate convened on the night of August 17 in the defence team’s absence when Matemadanda had been summoned to court.
“Anyone in the accused person’s shoes would feel the decision has already been made in chambers. The accused person is being charged under the same section and grounds as those for Mutodi and the court’s previous conduct in similar cases will make it impossible to impartially and independently deal with the matter before you,” Mtetwa said.
Singano refuted the allegations and said he was not present at court at the time alleged by the defendant’s lawyers, arguing that Mutodi and Matemadanda were two different people hence his decision would not be clouded.
Prosecutor Fransisca Mukumbiri applied for a warrant of further detention to enable the police to travel with Matemadanda to search his house and business premises in Gokwe as they suspected that they would identify material at the premises crucial in building their case against the ZNLWVA secretary-general before he could be formally placed on remand.
However, Mtetwa objected: “Is it not correct that your case is entirely based on a press conference that the accused person gave in Harare recently? Clearly, both charges arose from the presser. What other manufactured material are you going to get out of the four corners of the presser?
“You were allocated this case on August 11 and had ample time to complete your investigations and travel to Gokwe until yesterday but you chose not to. He even asked you to go and conduct the search in his wife’s presence but you refused and insisted on going with him. The accused person has rights and he will state that he is not comfortable to travel with you during the night”.
This is the second time in just over a year that Matemadanda has had to fight for his freedom at the courts.
He, along with other executive members of ZNLWVA were arrested in July last year, for allegedly penning a damning communiqué that denounced Mugabe for running down the southern African state, being divisive in politics and manipulative in general.
On his way to the top of the war veterans’ body, Matemadanda stepped on too many toes.
For example, he was among the group that pushed for Joice Mujuru’s removal as vice president in 2014.
He was also key in the removal of Jabulani Sibanda as leader of ZNLWVA in October 2014, after Sibanda — in his spirited attempts to defend Mujuru — was accused of criminally insulting Mugabe and First Lady Grace Mugabe.
The insult laws, which have rarely been used against Zanu PF members, have trailed several of Mnangagwa’s tough-talking allies.
Former Zanu PF youth leader for Mashonaland Central Godfrey Tsenengamu was arrested in May on charges of attempting to subvert a constitutionally-elected government.
He was first arrested in February this year on similar charges after convening a press conference in Harare where he called for a response from Mnangagwa and his allies, following Mugabe’s birthday interview with ZBC in which he appeared to crush Mnangagwa’s presidential ambitions by saying that no one in Zanu PF was worthy of succeeding him.
In December 2015, Zanu PF legislator for Gokwe-Nembudziya, Justice Mayor Wadyajena, was arrested in Victoria Falls at the close of the party’s national conference for insulting Grace. Daily News