The three MLF senior executive members Charles Thomas, John Gazi and Paul Siwela are facing treason charges after being arrested in March last year in different locations of Bulawayo for distributing MLF flyers calling for the separation of Matebeleland region from the whole of Zimbabwe.
However their trial opened before Judge Justice Nicholas Ndou in Bulawayo on Monday with one of the key state witnesses, Headman Sibanda shocking police by dismissing their claims in court that he had seen Thomas and Gazi distributing flyers in the city. The three MLF leaders also pleaded not guilty to the treason charges.
“I never saw any of the three accused persons distributing flyers of MLF,” Sibanda told the court.
There are more than 11 state witnesses who have been lined up to testify against the MLF leaders. Another state witness Sibangani Ndlovu also testified before Judge Ndou yesterday. Their trial continues today (Tuesday).
The MLF executive members are being represented by Sindiso Mazibisa, Advocate Lucas Nkomo, Robert Ndlovu and Sabelo Sibanda.
The militant and radical MLF was launched in January last year and is advocating for the independence of the Matabeleland region located in the southern part of Zimbabwe saying the Ndebele speaking people of this country have been marginalised by the government for too long and also face discrimination every day at work places and tertiary institutions.
The call for Matabeleland secession from Zimbabwe appeared to have been encouraged by events in South Sudan where people there voted overwhelmingly recently to break away from mainland Sudan in a referendum.
Last year MLF announced that it was dragging President Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe government to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) over arrests and harassments of its members.