State Frees Energy Minister Alters Gwisai Treason Charges

In a surprising climb down Chris Mutangadura, a chief law officer in the AG’s Office withdrew the charges before plea on Tuesday just as High Court Judge Justice Tendai Uchena prepared to preside over the trial.

Mangoma, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) deputy treasurer-general was supposed to go on trial after the State alleged that he had “fixed” tenders for electricity metres for State power utility, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).

The prosecutors claimed that Mangoma unlawfully and intentionally abused his public office for the purpose of showing disfavour to some local and South African companies that had participated in a tender for the supply and delivery of prepayment revenue management system meters.

The State alleged that Mangoma unlawfully instructed former ZESA Holdings chief executive officer Benjamin Rafemoyo, the power utility’s board chairperson Noah Madziva and the State Procurement Board to stop processing the tender for the supply of prepaid electricity meters after adjudication thereby effectively cancelling a tender awaiting announcement of the winner.

But Mutangadura notified Justice Uchena of the state’s resolve not to prosecute on the basis that Mangoma had been acquitted last month on similar charges of criminal abuse of duty as a public officer in a case in which he had been on trial for allegedly flouting tender procedures in the procurement of fuel.

Justice Uchena noted the withdrawal of the charges which was welcomed by Mangoma’s lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa and Selby Hwacha, who are members of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Justice Chinembiri Bhunu acquitted Mangoma last month at the close of the state case.

Upon Mangoma’s arrest, Mtetwa lashed out at the police and prosecutors for preferring to prosecute the MDC leader in instalments. Mtetwa said the police and the prosecutors’ actions were malicious as they could have laid the charges against Mangoma when he was first arrested early in March for allegedly contravening procurement procedures in the acquisition of fuel supplies.

Meanwhile Zimbabwean prosecutors on Monday altered treason charges levelled against former Movement for MDC legislator Munyaradzi Gwisai and International Socialist Organisation (ISO) leader Munyaradzi Gwisai to inciting public violence.

In a dramatic twist State prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba altered the treason charge that the six activists were initially charged with contravening to conspiracy to committing public violence.

Gwisai and the five social justice and human rights activists were arrested in February together with 39 other activists during a meeting convened to discuss ISO business and issues of democracy and constitutionalism.

The police and prosecutors who charged them with treason claimed that they gathered with the intention to mobilize Zimbabweans to revolt against President Robert Mugabe’s administration. 39 of the activists were later freed by Harare Magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi.

Gwisai and six other activists told Mutevedzi that they were subjected to torture sessions during their detention by the police at Harare Central Police Station which were aimed at securing confessions from the activists which would implicate them in the commission of treason.

On the new charge sheet which was handed over to the activists’ lawyer Alec Muchadehama by Nyazamba, Gwisai and his co-accused are now facing a main charge of contravening section 36 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly conspiring to commit public violence and three other alternative charges.

The activists face alternative charges of contravening section 187 for allegedly inciting public violence, for allegedly participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of peace or bigotry.