The imprisonment of prominent Ntabazinduna traditional leader, Chief Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni, has been described as a “political sham” amid indications that his lawyers are preparing for an appeal.
Ndiweni, who is very vocal against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, was on Friday jailed 18 months by Bulawayo magistrate Gladmore Mushove for malicious damage to property.
Twenty-three villagers that were charged alongside him were only sentenced to 525 hours of community service each.
The chief and his subjects were accused of destroying a fellow villager’s crops.
Former Education minister David Coltart said it was clear that there was political interference in the case where former Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu and Zanu PF ‘were deeply involved”.
“The prosecution was spurious, the judgement deeply flawed and the sentence utterly ridiculous,” he said.
“ Even if one accepts the deeply flawed State case as fact (which is strenuously denied by Chief Ndiweni), the damage alleged to property is only RTGS$300, namely US$30, for which Chief Ndiweni has been sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.
“There was no evidence that Chief Ndiweni himself damaged the property, but somehow he has been found vicariously guilty.
“This is a profoundly shocking development and the hand of Zanu PF is clearly obvious.”
“The public at the court (on Friday) were deeply angered by the jailing of this honest, decent, compassionate and principled traditional leader, so much so that riot police had to be deployed in case their anger boiled over.”
Mhlonipheki Ncube, the MDC provincial spokesperson in Matabeleland North, said his party would stand by Ndiweni whom he said was being persecuted.
“We are quite aware that this is not aimed at the chief in particular but just to instill fear in the generality of disgruntled people of Matabeleland and the entire nation,” he said.
“We want once again to take this opportunity to join our president Advocate Nelson Chamisa in calling for the immédiate release of Chief Ndiweni for what they are doing is only adding salt to the wound.”
A day before Ndiweni was sent to jail, he had posted videos on Twitter urging Zimbabweans to join peaceful protests against Mnangagwa’s government. Indications are that his lawyers will file an appeal by tomorrow and also apply for bail. Zimbabwe Standard