By Amos Maseko
Harare, November 7, 2013 – Embattled MDC-T deputy national chairperson Morgen Komichi was on Thursday found guilty of committing electoral fraud but was spared the dreaded prison sentence after Harare magistrate Tendai Mahwe considered his pleas that he had already spent three months detained at Chikurubi Remand Prison.
The former Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development Deputy Minister was convicted on both fraud and the alternative charge of contravening Section 85 (i) of the Electoral Act, charges which he vehemently denied during his trial.
In his ruling, Mahwe said his court established the MDC-T chief elections agent had indeed hatched a plan – as alleged by the state – with some unnamed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) officials to discredit the “good name” of ZEC.
Mahwe said it was apparent the stray ballot paper presented to ZEC by Komichi had not been cast by Constable Mugove Chigwinya in an official polling station but was obtained under suspicious circumstances and cast by Komichi in cahoots with his mysterious accomplices to misrepresent that ZEC was not in total control of the country’s controversial electoral process.
“Clearly, the intention was to prejudice the good name of ZEC,” Mahwe said in his sentencing remarks, “Accordingly, the accused has been found guilty as charged on both counts.”
Komichi, a first offender, was immediately slapped with18 months imprisonment, eight of which were wholly suspended on condition he does not commit a similar offence in the next five years.
The remaining 10 months were suspended on condition that he performs 350 hours of community service at Harare’s Mabelreign Clinic starting on Monday.
The sentence was passed after Mahwe had heard pleas for a lesser sentence by Komichi’s lawyer Alec Muchadehama who submitted during mitigation that the former ZESA employee had already “served” three months at Chikurubi Remand Prison.
Komichi and his lawyer will on Friday morning appear again before the same court to make submissions for an appeal against the community service sentence.
The seemingly light sentence was met with scenes of celebrations from dozens of MDC-T activists who packed the court room at Harare Magistrates Court in solidarity with him.
Among them were party deputy president Thokozani Khupe, party national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa and youth assembly leader Solomon Madzore.
Komichi was arrested on July 28 after he had approached ZEC with a stray ballot paper which he claimed was picked by an MDC-T sympathiser who said he had picked it from a dust bin at the Harare International Conference Centre where ZEC was based during the electoral period.
The MDC-T, which claims bias against it by the electoral body, is adamant Komichi was being sacrificed by the authorities to cover up ZEC’s failures in managing the harmonised elections which were won by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party.