A NINETEEN-year-old girl, Natasha Bakaliya, who was kidnapped by alleged Zanu PF thugs, forced to change clothes in the presence of males and detained for hours at a Zanu PF base during a Norton by-election in October 2016, is finally getting justice.
By Wongai Zhangazha
Natasha, who was 17-years at the time, narrated her ordeal in a packed courtroom recently. She stated that Zanu PF youths kicked her from behind and dragged her to a Zanu PF base at Ngoni Stadium in Norton, telling her that she was being punished because of her mother’s sins.
The National Assembly by-election was contested between independent candidate Themba Mliswa and Zanu PF candidate Ronald Chindedza. Mliswa eventually won the seat. Bakaliya’s mother, Ronica Nyikadzino, was supporting Mliswa.
Testifying before magistrate Milton Serima, Bakaliya, then presiding in Katanga township, said she was abducted by Zanu PF youths who were campaigning for Chindedza on October 8 at 5pm. The accused are Priscilla Jambaya, Samantha Zhakata and a Tapiwa.
The case was delayed due to alleged interference by senior Zanu PF officials.
Natasha’s kidnapping, and other political violence cases pending at the courts, have been identified by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) as urgent. Some cases date back to 2008 when more than 200 opposition supporters were allegedly murdered.
There has also been an agreement between the Judicial Service Commission, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, NPA and non-governmental organisations to prioritise political violence cases as the country prepares for general elections later this year.
“Two trucks packed with Zanu PF youths and a black car that looked like an Ipsum came to our house. The youths were singing ‘Temba uchauraisa vana’ (Temba you will cause the death of children). Priscilla, who was our landlady, came in the company of the other youths and she was saying that she wants to remove property from our house because she could not live with someone who supports Mliswa,” said Bakaliya.
She said some of the youths forced themselves into her house looking for Mliswa’s campaign t-shirts. She was roughed up, resulting in her skirt being torn.
Natasha said she requested to be allowed to change clothes in privacy but the male Zanu PF youths forced her to change in their presence.
Natasha said she was then dragged and forced into one of the trucks, after which she was taken to the base. She was forced to wear a Zanu PF campaign t-shirt emblazoned with Chindedza’s picture. She was released at 8pm.
A medical affidavit was presented in court and a Zanu PF t-shirt was shown as an exhibit.
The accused persons’ lawyer Clemence Ngweshiwa accused Natasha of lying.
Ngweshiwa said the charges against his clients were fabricated as they had no reason to kidnap Bakaliya. The matter was postponed to April 4. Norton Magistrate Public Prosecutor in charge, Leonella Chitanda, represented the State.
Prior to the start of the trial Mliswa wrote to Prosecutor-General Ray Goba on February 6, requesting that the case be moved to the High Court or another magistrate’s court.
Mliswa said he was worried that the proceedings may be prone to compromise, political involvement and judicial tampering from Zanu PF members.
“This concern stems from several voice recordings that have recently come into my possession and that I may produce if and when required, that clearly highlight the level of desperation the party (Zanu PF) has reached to ensure that a judgment is passed in their favour as well as the recent involvement of senior party officials,” Mliswa wrote.
In his response on February 9, Goba said he had not been presented with evidence that the state representative or the presiding magistrate are in any way compromised by external actors.
“On the contrary I am aware that charges have been put to the accused who have entered pleas of not guilty. In the event the parties gave entered the litis contestatio phase [the process of contesting a suit by the opposing statements of the respective parties]. The matter was postponed simply because the accused requested an adjournment so they can secure the services of a legal practitioner,” Goba wrote.
“I am advised that they have since procured such service and all state papers have been furnished to the lawyer. As they have already pleaded to the charges the learned magistrate is seized with the matter to finality. Prosecution cannot be stopped and the matter cannot in law be transferred. I stand guided be the law and all other laws relating to criminal proceedings.”