Biti challenges “unsuitable” prosecutor as trial commences

THE trial of opposition political party leader Tendai Biti on charges of contravening the Electoral Act commenced on Monday 12 November 2018 with the human rights lawyer challenging the involvement of Michael Reza as the lead prosecutor.

As trial commenced before Harare Magistrate Gloria Takundwa, Biti filed an application objecting to the involvement of Reza as lead prosecutor.

Biti’s lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa, Alec Muchadehama and Jeremiah Bamu told Magistrate Takundwa that Reza should recuse himself from prosecuting Biti as he was not fit to be a prosecutor.

The lawyers charged that Reza is not independent or impartial as provided in section 260 of the
Constitution and had acted in a partisan manner when he deposed an affidavit in the High Court accusing Biti of inciting and masterminding the 01 August 2018 violence, where members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces killed six people.

Reza submitted an opposing affidavit in a matter in which Biti is seeking a review of Harare Magistrate Francis Mapfumo’s decision not to release his passport to allow him to travel outside the country to seek medical treatment.

The lawyers argued that leaving Reza to conduct the trial would be prejudicial to Biti hence the National Prosecuting Authority should assign someone else to lead the prosecution.

Magistrate Takundwa will hand down her ruling on Biti’s application on Thursday 15 November 2018. Biti is on trial on allegations of contravening the Electoral Act. He is accused of unlawfully and unofficially announcing the 30 July 2018 presidential election results.

Biti was arrested on 8 August 2018 after being returned from Zambia under unclear circumstances. He was initially charged with contravening section 66(A)(1) of the Electoral Act for allegedly announcing the results of the presidential elections held in July 2018, as well as contravening section 36(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

Biti is on trial on allegations of violating section 66A(1)(a) – unofficial or false declaration of results prohibited, as well as section 66A(1)(b) – unofficial or false declaration of results prohibited.

Prosecutors allege that Biti, who is currently out of custody on bail, unlawfully and unofficially purportedly announced or purportedly declared that the MDC-Alliance party had won the harmonised elections held on 30 July 2018 when in actual fact the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) officials, who are mandated to make the declaration had not yet declared the official results or winner, in contravention of the Electoral Act.

Six witnesses are scheduled to testify against Biti during the trial.