THE trial of Buhera North MP Advocate Eric Matinenga accused of inciting political violence in his constituency, opened in Mutare this week with his lawyer accusing the state of using trumped up charges to punish him for his political views.
According to the state outline, Matinenga paid and incited MDC youths to unleash terror on Zanu PF supporters in his constituency ahead of the June 27 presidential election run-off.
The state alleged that on May 28 MDC supporters attacked several homesteads belonging to Zanu PF members in Gwebu village and the assailants accused Matinenga of complicity.
On May 31, Matinenga, a leading Harare lawyer, allegedly visited the homestead of MDC-Tsvangirai chairman for Ward 3 in Gwebu village, Mbambata Nkomo, where about 30 party youths were gathered.
Matinenga was allegedly seen by Blessed Masiiwa and Timothy Mhuruyengwe giving money to the youths before driving away.
The same day, the state alleged, Matinenga went to the homestead of another MDC official in the same village, Tapfumanei Muindisi, where about 60 supporters had gathered.
“The MDC supporters, who appeared very excited, greeted the accused as he disembarked from his motor vehicle,” the state averred. “The accused was heard uttering words in substance and to the following effect, “mirai muzvikwata zvenyu semashandiro amuri kuita (stand in your groups in which you are operating).”
The state further alleged that Matinenga was observed by Masiiwa and Mhuruyengwe going to his vehicle from where he took a cardboard box and started to dish out cash to the MDC supporters.
“After dishing out money the accused was heard uttering words in substance and to the effect that rambai muchiita basa semaitiro amuri kuita (keep on carrying out your work like you are doing),” the state alleged.
However, Matinenga’s lawyer, Tinoziva Bere, said the allegations were a creation of certain institutions of the state to persecute and punish his client for his political views and for his legal challege to violence, torture and repression led by the army in Buhera.
“The accused is not aware of the alleged acts of violence against the claimed victims, but is aware that several of his supporters were attacked, arrested, detained and unlawfully tortured and then handed over to the police to be charged prior to and after May 31,” read Matinenga’s defence outline.
Bere submitted that his client sought a High Court order against the army after the abduction and the torture of innocent civilians in his constituency by members of the armed forces.
“It is the same violations that forced him to attend Buhera Police station on May 31 to represent innocent victims of the aforesaid torture who were being illegally detained,” Bere told the court.
The trial was adjourned to November 25 by magistrate Hlekani Mwayera.
Meanwhile, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza) leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu who have been languishing in remand prison for three weeks were on Wednesday granted bail by the High Court.
The two would, however, have to abide by stringent bail conditions imposed by the court, among them, the duo should remain within a 40 km radius of Bulawayo.
Williams and Mahlangu can only leave the city after getting written consent from a Bulawayo magistrate. The duo would also have to report to the police twice weekly and should reside at their given addresses.
The two were granted $200 000 bail on Wednesday but were only released from Khami Maximum Security Prison yesterday.
Williams and Mahlangu were arrested three weeks ago after they led a group of women protesting against the humanitarian crisis in the country and the political impasse caused by the failure by Zanu PF and the two MDC formations to reach an agreement on the distribution of ministries under the unity government deal signed on September 15.
The two are jointly charged under a section of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly “disturbing the peace, security or order of the public”.
They initially applied for bail a fortnight ago, but the state opposed the application arguing that two had the propensity to commit similar offences.
Williams and Mahlangu are not new to the courts. They have been arrested several times for leading peaceful demonstrations against deteriorating living and human rights standards in the country.
Williams is a recipient of the United States State Department International Women of Courage Award which she received from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in March 2007. Local and international human rights groups condemned the arrest and detention of the two women activists.
By Loughty Dube/Lucia MakamureÂ