FOR a man normally associated with terror for his alleged role in the often bloody farm invasions, war veteransâ€™ leader Joseph Chinotimba could try his hand at stand-up comedy following his dramatic performance in court last week that left even the magistrate in stitches.
Judging by his performance he could face off with the late Paraffin or Mutirowafanza and emerge victorious hands down.
What would have been a long boring court procedure on Wednesday last week turned out to be an entertaining one with even Harare Magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini failing to resist Chinotimbaâ€™s hilarious testimony.
It was the day when the trial of deputy Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Thamsanqa Mahlangu started on allegations of stealing a cellphone belonging to Chinotimba.
The former Harare City Council police man was the first to narrate how his Nokia 2310 was stolen on July 17 when he attended Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambaraâ€™s National Vision 2040 at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC).
Mahlangu is jointly charged with his personal assistant Malvern Chadamoyo and two Hwange women, Geraldine Phiri and Patience Nyoni, with stealing the US$40 phone.
All of them deny the charge.
Clad in a grey suit, a smart-looking ChinotimbaÂ from time to time swayed to other issues despite constantly being told to stick to the cellphone theft story.
He said: â€œI got to the conference a bit late around lunch hour and some people had already eaten.
But before I sat down â€˜pakaita mufaro wakanyaya vanhu vachida kutaura neni sezvo vanga vanzwa kuti ndichataura speechâ€™ (There was great happiness among the crowd as people came to greet me and talk to me. They had heard I was going to make a speech).â€
As Chinotimba wanted to go on with how he was welcomed he was cut short by the magistrate and told to stick to the story of how his phone was stolen.
I went and sat with third accused (Mahlangu) and we started chatting. We were talking about the constitution jesting at each other. We spoke â€˜nehushamwari hwakadzika sevanhu vari muincrusiveâ€™ (we spoke with deep friendship as people who are in the inclusive government),â€ he said, speaking in Shona.
Chinotimba suspected that after he had gone to collect his main course his phone which he had left on the table with his file, diary and hat was stolen.
He claims that he had switched it off because it was distracting him from partaking in his meal.
Chinotimba said: â€œNdabva kunotora chikafu chihombe chiya (After I had gone to take the main course) I left my things on the table. I never suspected that â€œvanhu vakati svinureiâ€ (well-respected people) would steal anything from me. When I just sat the third accused immediately left the table.â€
â€œHandina kutarisa kuti phone yaivepo here ndakangopinda mukudya. Hino kana uchidya zvinhuÂ zvinokanganikwa. (I did not check whether my phone was still there. You know when you are eating you tend to forget some things). It was only when I was about to go to the conference that I realised the phone was missing.â€
The phone and broken sim card were brought in as exhibits and Chinotimba was asked to identify and again the court was left laughing.
â€œNdoyangu chaiyo, chaiyo, grazi racho rakotoparika parika (This is my phone with its scratched screen) and this is my sim card. I know my number (shouting it in court). The number is well recognised even internationari (internationally),â€ he said.
Chinotimba said he was worried as to how the accused managed to switch on his phone when it had a pin code.
â€œIt bothered me how they got my pin number because my phone was off and has a pin number of four zeros.â€
Explaining how Minister of Youth, Saviour Kasukuwere, got involved Chinotimba said he was very annoyed when he got information from Detective Inspector Henry Dowa that Kasukuwere had his phone.
Â Chinotimba said: â€œI called Kasukuwere and he told me that my phone had been left by deputy Minister Mahlangu. I asked him why the phone was handed to him and whether he had now taken possession of the police.â€
â€œI was annoyed by the situation and told him to go to the police and leave the phone there or give the person who gave him (the phone) to take it to the police and warned him not to get involved because the matter was now at the police. Why did they have to go through Kasukuwere? I am not a lion.â€
According to Chinotimba his phone is valued at US$40 while his sim card is US$10. He also claimed that he incurred a bill of between US$35 and US$40 when the sim card was allegedly used by the two women.
During cross examination, defence lawyer Charles Kwaramba asked Chinotimba whether he would be able to dispute that Mahlangu was not at the HICC during lunch hour and only arrived at 3pm.
Kwaramba said: â€œWould you deny it if the third accused (Mahlangu) told you that he was not at the conference during lunch hour and that the third and fourth accused never had lunch that day and never at that time entered the VIP lounge. That he had gone to CMED for it was the day he made arrangements to get his Prado car?â€
Chinotimba however said they were lying because he had sat with them at the table during lunch.
Chinotimba said: â€œThey are lying because I was sitting with them. Mbavha haimbofi yakabvuma kuti ndakaba inoti, ndirikunzi ndakaba. (A thief will never agree that he stole the phone).â€
Kwaramba grilled Chinotimba on the exact time announcements that he had lost phone were made at the conference.
Initially Chinotimba had said that the announcements were made at around 5pm and then 6pm as delegates were leaving the HICC and that they were all made by a â€œwhite manâ€.
He later changed the announcements times to 3pm and around 5pm.
Kwaramba however disputed that saying that his witnesses said the first announcements were made at around 14.30 and that the â€œwhite manâ€ whom he identified as Kurt Michael Ritz had not made them.
Chinotimba responded angrily: â€œThe white man and the accused (Mahlangu) are very close friends. No white person at the conference would agree that he stole my phone. No white person could talk against MDC. They are in cahoots. They are so much in love with each other.â€
Kwaramba asked Chinotimba why some of the things he said in his evidence-in-chief were in contradiction to his police statement and why he did not say that initially.
There maybe a difference but it does not mean they did not steal. I said it, but it is not my fault that the police did not mention it in the statement. The information is there in the hand-written statement,â€ he said in Shona.
When asked how far he was sitting from Mahlangu when the announcements were made and why he could not pinpoint him as the one who stole his phone since they had had a conversation, Chinotimba reluctantly said: â€œHe was far right. I did not have a tape to measure the distance. As politicians it was not possible for me to go and say you stole my phone. On the surface we appear to be in good books but we lie to each other a lot.â€
The trial continues on September 21.