MDC Alliance’s Tendai Biti pleads not guilty in Harare court

Lawyer Tendai Biti, former finance minister, speaks to journalists outside Zimbabwe's High Court in the capital Harare. File photo: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo.
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HARARE – The trial of Zimbabwe’s opposition party the MDC Alliance’s deputy national chairperson Tendai Biti commenced on Monday with the 53-year-old lawyer pleading not guilty to two counts of contravening the Electoral Act for his claim on July 31, that MDC leader Nelson Chamisa won the 2018 presidential polls.

His legal team contends that he announced the results that had already been published by election agents.

“There is nothing criminal about that because the law says the public can access and announce returns from polling stations,” said his lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, referring to V11 forms that are posted outside polling stations.

“The quotes in both counts make it clear that what was said by the Biti was based on results received from agents across the country, a clear indication that the report was based on polling station and constituency returns. As such, conduct is permitted by the Electoral Act. The allegations clearly do not disclose an offence.”

Biti also challenged the court’s jurisdiction to prosecute him, arguing he was unlawfully brought into the country following his arrest in Zambia.

“The accused will challenge the court’s jurisdiction to hear this case  because he was abducted from Zambia unlawfully. That was in violation of a court order issue  issued by the Zambian High Court and also in contravention of the local law. This was also a breach of International law with regards to the extradition of persons facing offences of a political nature,” his lawyer told the court.

Mtetwa also challenged the splitting of charges, arguing the second count should be thrown out as there was only one penalty provision: “The accused has been served with a charge sheet that has two different counts which are exactly the same and it unclear whether this was a deliberate improper splitting or sheer incompetence on the part of the State.”

African News Agency (ANA)