State is accused of trying to ‘fix’ Biti

LAWYERS representing MDC-Tsvangirai secretary-general Tendai Biti, who is facing allegations of treason, yesterday accused the state of deliberately delaying his trial just to “fix” him.


Biti was arrested last year for allegedly authoring a document — Transition Strategy — plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

Biti’s lawyer, Advocate Lewis Uriri, told a Harare court that the state was dragging its heels in setting the date for his client’s trial. He said prosecutor Tawanda Zvekare was allegedly blaming Biti for stalling the formation of the unity government.

Zvekare wanted to remand Biti to May 4.

Uriri said he recorded Zvekare as saying Biti was delaying the formation of the inclusive government when they were discussing indictment papers.

“Your honour, my response is that this is a political issue and has nothing to do with the law,” Uriri said. “My colleague (prosecutor Zvakare) said they were fixing my client and when I asked he said it was a joke in the context of current affairs. The delay is intentional to fix the accused (Biti).”

Uriri told the packed court that the state’s application for further remand should be rejected and a date for trial set.]

“In November 2008 an undertaking was made on behalf of the state by (a) Mr Mpofu that trial date and induct process would have been done by 4th of December 2008. On the 4th my colleague Zvekare appeared and in breach of the entire undertaking sought a further remand,” he argued. “We resisted that application and the court decided to grant the state a last chance. In my respect last means last. If my colleague is to have another last chance then we have to revisit the Oxford (English) dictionary.”    

                                                                                   
He said undertakings were made, which were recorded in court, that Zvekare would advise by December 19 2008 how the state intended to proceed.

Uriri argued: “For the record that undertaking was not honoured so by December 19 we had no communication whatsoever as regards to the state’s move. The matter was given a longer remand from December 4 to February 4 2009 on the understanding that on the 4th the state would either withdraw or formally induct their case.

“As of yesterday (Wednesday) the induct papers ought to have been in place and the accused ought now to have been served the induct papers.”

He said there was no need for further delays since the state had completed its investigations. It cannot set May 4 as the trial date without having submitted induct papers.

Zvekare said the state had no plan to “fix” the accused and denied breaching any undertaking.

Zvekare said: “I am disheartened by those remarks by my colleague. I am not a politician, we are lawyers and free to discuss issues in a free and conducive environment. He quoted me out of context. The state has nothing personally to do with the accused.

“There are no ulterior motives for delays. The 4th of May is just around the corner. The charges are of a very serious matter and police have been battling to gather evidence. We are pleased to say that the investigations are now complete. We are ready for trial. We have seen it fit to prioritise the case on 4 May in the second term of the High Court.”

The court will today make the final decision on the application for further remand.

BY WONGAI ZHANGAZHA