Beitbridge prosecutors ‘too scared’ to handle MDC arrests

State prosecutors in Beitbridge on Monday refused to handle a case involving MDC-T officials, who were arrested over the weekend for attending a party workshop.

The prosecutors said the case was ‘too sensitive’ to handle, but our correspondent in Bulawayo told us they feared the powerful co-Home Affairs Minister and local MP Kembo Mohadi.

Lionel Saungweme said as the case involved MDC-T activists arrested in Mohadi’s constituency, expectations were that they should be tried and found guilty at all costs. Anything less than that is usually met with serious repercussions from Mohadi.

‘They have been put in a very difficult situation by Mohadi. Prosecutors know very well they can never secure convictions or a custodial sentence in cases like these, so its better for them not to handle the cases,’ Saungweme said.

He added that the powerful ZANU PF politburo member wields so much power in Beitbridge that most government employees at the border town are wary of crossing his path as they fear losing their jobs at the whim of the minister.

This was amply demonstrated on Monday when all the state prosecutors in town refused to handle the bail hearing of 13 officials from the MDC-T. The group was part of 35 people arrested on Saturday for attending a district party workshop in Beitbridge East. Twenty-two were released from police custody on Sunday.

The rest, described as the top leadership and ‘brains’ behind the MDC-T in the area, were taken to court on Monday.

‘When it was clear no one was willing to deal with the case, the state brought in a police officer identified as T.B. Moyo to help with the prosecution. In his submission, Moyo urged the court to deny the activists bail, saying if released the group would influence other residents of Beitbridge.

‘Another absurd reason he gave was that enemies of the activists will beat them if they are released, at which juncture the magistrate said it was the duty of the police to keep peace in the border town,’ Saungweme said.

The magistrate went on to grant the 13 activists $50 bail each but the state invoked section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. This is a counter measure which prosecutors invoke to defeat the bail order and retain accused persons in custody for a further 7 days, allegedly to allow the state time to file an appeal against the bail ruling.

This draconian piece of legislation has always been arbitrarily invoked against members of the MDC formations and human rights defenders.

In January Mohadi himself was dragged to court by a war vet, over a property ownership feud. War vet Given Mbedzi, claimed to have been threatened with unspecified action after he and his brother refused to leave a property they allege had been allocated to them in 2003.

The ex-combatant claimed that Mohadi’s son went berserk and assaulted his mother and deflated the tyres of a hired car that the war vet was using. The case was reported to the police and when it went to court public prosecutor Blessing Gundani referred it to the Gwanda Provincial magistrate, for unspecified reasons.

Saungweme believes Mohadi, who has his thumb on every facet of business in Beitbridge, is an extremely intimidating figure who uses his past connection with the CIO to intimidate and silence his business and political opponents. – SW Radio Africa News

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