Harare, June 9, 2014 – A Zimbabwean court has discharged nine youths aligned to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai leaving a major dent on embattled former party deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma’s bid to portray the former Prime Minister as a proponent of violence.
Harare Magistrate Milton Serima freed the nine MDC-T youths who had been on trial for allegedly masterminding the assault of Mangoma at Harvest House in February after he granted an application for discharge at the close of the state case filed by defence lawyer Douglas Mwonzora. Through the application for discharge, Mwonzora argued that the State prosecutors had failed to prove a prima facie case against the party youths through the evidence of the six witnesses who had testified since the trial commenced.
The nine MDC-T youths namely James Chidhakwa, Francis Machimbidzofa, Samson Nerwande, Steven Jahwi, Enock Mukudu, , Shakespear Mukoyi, Rhino Mashaya, Paul Gorekore and Denford Ngadziore were arrested between February and March and charged with assaulting Mangoma in contravention of Section 89 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23). The arrest of the MDC-T party youths came after Mangoma reported his “assault” at Avondale Police Station and which the police responded by launching a manhunt for the suspects.
In acquitting the MDC-T youths, Magistrate Serima ruled that video footage recorded before during and after the alleged assault of Mangoma clearly exonerated the MDC-T youths.
“He (Magistrate Serima) found it strange that the police had not arrested the three people who are captured live on video attacking Hon. Mangoma on that day. He found it doubly surprising that no complaint of assault had been lodged against the three individuals who are seen assaulting Hon. Mangoma on the video. The Magistrate further found the evidence from three youths from the so-called Renewal faction manifestly unreliable. The witnesses Pardon Maengahama, Lastone Julias and Thabani Mlambo all gave contradictory accounts of what happened on that day. They even contradicted each other on who actually assaulted Hon. Mangoma. They all said they were present during Hon. Mangoma’s attack and were about four meters away from him. Yet they don’t remember seeing each other on that day,” said Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T spokesperson, who was part of the legal team that represented the nine MDC-T party youths.
Mwonzora immediately criticised his party’s opponents for attempting to portray its leader and supporters as advocates of violence.
“We are happy that our disciplined and loyal cadres have been acquitted of this violence. This event has been used by ZANU PF, state agents and our opponents to try to paint the MDC-T as a violent party. This is part of their de-branding crusade. Fortunately, today justice was done and the truth came out. Why are the police not interested in arresting the three people who were captured on camera assaulting Hon. Mangoma? Why was Hon. Mangoma not interested in the arrest of those people? As we have said before the people who perpetrated this violence were thugs hired to cause mayhem at the MDC-T headquarters so that the MDC-T would be blamed for violence. We wait to see whether the state papers will give the same prominence to the acquittal as they gave to the arrest of these innocent youths,” said Mwonzora.
In February, Mangoma claimed that he was assaulted by supporters loyal to Tsvangirai after a party leadership meeting held at Harvest House, the MDC-T headquarters.
The former deputy-treasurer-general drew the ire of the majority of the MDC-T party supporters after he called for the resignation of the former trade union leader outside the party’s formal structures. But Mangoma insisted that his approach was a frank method aimed at rejuvenating the party after being defeated by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party in the July elections.
Tsvangirai has already condemned the harassment of party leaders and has publicly stated that those who “yanked” Mangoma’s shirt outside the party headquarters will “face the music.
In April Tsvangirai’s party expelled Mangoma together with other officials including Promise Mkwananzi and Jacob Mafume from the opposition party for gross indiscipline. However, Mangoma and his allies including Tendai Biti, who served as the secretary-general before dumping Tsvangirai and joining a breakaway faction calling itself MDC Renewal Team, also suspended Tsvangirai, Mwonzora and several of the once formidable opposition party for allegedly misappropriating the party’s financial resources, violating the party’s constitution and using violence against political opponents, among other allegations.