A BULAWAYO regional magistrate last week declined to place on remand a Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) constituency elections officer accused of tampering with President Robert Mugabeâ€™s votes in the March 29 presidential election.
The move by magistrate John Masimba dealt a blow to Zanu PF claims that the presidential poll results were rigged in favour of opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Masimba criticised the police for lack of professionalism in handling the case.
Dismissing the state application to place Virginia Sibanda on remand, Masimba said the state case was a shame and a disappointment given the way it was investigated.
He said the police had no case against Sibanda as they could not substantiate the allegations against her.
The magistrate ordered her immediate release.
Sibanda, a district education officer for Bubi, who was the constituency elections officer, was arrested together with other election officers countrywide on allegations that they understated votes garnered by Mugabe.
She was charged with fraud and criminal abuse of duty as a public officer.
The state also alleged that she understated votes cast for independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni.
Sibanda, the state alleged, publicly displayed and published results for wards 1 to 23 and deliberately left out results for wards 3, 10, 11 and 17.
She allegedly posted results indicating that the Zanu PF presidential candidate President Mugabe had polled 6 268 votes instead of 6 979.But in a sudden turn of events in court, the ZEC district elections officer, Mark Ndlovu, under whose supervision Sibanda served, testified that she did nothing wrong and instead said everything was done after consultation.
Ndlovu explained to the court that everything pertaining to the results was in order and challenged the state to produce evidence of any anomalies.
He further indicated that results of the polls were displayed at Inyathi Command Centre and stated that the police did not even consult him to check their facts when they instituted investigations into the matter against Sibanda.
The investigating officer, Detective Constable Tshabalala, under cross examination from Sabelo Sibanda of Sibanda & Partners representing Sibanda, failed to justify why the accused should be placed on remand.
Tshabalala told the court that the complainant in the case was Officer Commanding Matabeleland North, Senior Assistant Commissioner Edmore Veterai, but the defence queried why he was the complainant in the case since the election results have not been announced to the public.
Tshabalala said Sibanda should be placed on remand since he needed two weeks to complete investigations as he was only assigned to the case last Monday.
He, however, was unable to answer questions put to him and insisted that Veterai was the best person to explain the case. Masimba ruled that the state could proceed by way of summons if it gathers compelling evidence against Sibanda.