Zim court acquits Biti’s aids for “border jumping”

By Court Reporter

KAROI Magistrate Sam Chitumwa on Friday 31 May 2019 acquitted three
aides of human rights lawyer and opposition political party leader
Hon. Tendai Biti, who had been on trial for allegedly violating the
country’s immigration laws.

Biti’s lawyer Nqobizitha Mahole Mlilo and two of the opposition
legislator’s aides Clever Rambanepasi, and Tawanda Blessing Chitekwe
had been on trial on charges of failing to present themselves to an
immigration official as defined in Section 25(1) as read with section
25(5a) of the Immigration Act.

But Magistrate Chitumwa on Friday 31 May 2019 found Mlilo, Rambanepasi
and Chitekwe not guilty at the end of the State case and acquitted
them after ruling that the State failed to disprove the trio’s defence
in which they stated that they were asylum seekers when they left the
country to enter into Zambia at the time when Hon. Biti was hounded
out of Zimbabwe.

Magistrate Chitumwa also ruled that in the absence of evidence by the
State supporting its argument that the trio was not seeking asylum,
there is no basis to put them to their defence.

Mlilo, Rambanepasi and Chitekwe, who were out of custody on $100 bail
each, were arrested in August 2018 together with Hon. Biti and charged
with contravening the country’s immigration laws after they allegedly
departed Zimbabwe on August 8, 2018 at an unauthorised port of exit.

Prosecutors claimed that the trio, represented by Jeremiah Bamu of
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, connived at Chirundu One-Stop
Border post in Mashonaland West Province and hatched a plan to enter
Zambia by evading immigration clearance procedures from both Zimbabwe
and Zambia. They were arrested by officials from the Zimbabwean side
of the border post.

The State claims that the trio failed to produce passports to both
immigration authorities from Zambia and Zimbabwe to validate their
exit and entry.
The State led by prosecutor Gerald Dhamusi was however, forced to
withdraw the main charge of departing from Zimbabwe from a place other
than a designated port of entry as in its own submissions, Hon. Biti’s
alleged accomplices had “departed” Zimbabwe into Zambia through
Chirundu One-Stop Border Post, a designated port of entry in terms of
the paragraph 1 (Border with Zambia) of the Part III (Entry or
Departure by Road), of the Schedule to the Immigration Regulations S.I
195/1998).

In denying the charge, the trio argued that the charge cited by the
State of failing to present oneself to an Immigration officer does not
apply to asylum seekers such as Hon. Biti and his lawyer and aides.

Bamu told Magistrate Chitumwa that his clients were abducted from
Zambia by Zimbabwean authorities led by assistant commissioner Jealous
Nyabasa, currently attached to the Criminal Investigations Department
as the deputy director in the Zimbabwe Republic Police Anti-Corruption
Unit.

Nyabasa told the court that he was assigned to be the investigating
officer against Hon. Biti whom the police intended to charge for
alleged violations of the Electoral Act in the aftermath of the July
2018 harmonised elections.

In the scope of his investigations, Nyabasa said he wrote to the
Immigration Department informing the officials of persons wanted by
the police, which list included Hon. Biti and requested them to alert
its border posts to be on the lookout for the people on the ZRP wanted
list in case they attempted “to skip the border”.

Nyabasa claimed that he received information that Hon. Biti had been
seen at Chirundu One-Stop Border Post on the Zambian side, prompting
him to depart for Chirundu, where two Immigration Department officers,
Florence Nyathi and Morgen Moyo handed Hon. Biti and his alleged
“accomplices” who had allegedly been deported from Zambia.

Nyabasa told Magistrate Chitumwa that he then took them to Harare for
further management.

Nyabasa failed to convince the court that Hon. Biti’s alleged
“accomplices” could not claim to be seeking asylum as a result of
political persecution since they were not on the police wanted list.