Accused MDC councillors have alibis

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Two councillors accused of murder were either in jail, or attending an NGO function when the crime occurred, their lawyer has claimed.

The lawyer representing two MDC councillors accused of murdering a ZANU PF councillor, has since applied for refusal of further remand arguing that the State had failed to prove that an offence had been committed.

Chinhoyi magistrate Ngoni Nduna reserved his ruling to today when he will make a decision on whether to keep on remand Emmanuel Chinanzvavana and Fani Tembo, all MDC councillors for Banket Town Council.

The two were arrested together with one Givemore Hodzi and charged with the murder of Lancelot Zvirongwe, a ZANU PF special interest councillor in their town.

However, the councillors’ fight for freedom at the High Court has been stalled by the on-going civil servants strike.

Their lawyer Tawanda Zhuwarara from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said they made the application for refusal of further remand on the basis that there was insufficient evidence linking them to the crime.

“The State is alleging that Zvirongwe allegedly sent text messages to the effect that he had been abducted by our clients, but at the time the text messages were sent, all the accused persons have alibis that vouch that they were not anywhere near Banket,” said Zhuwarara.

He said Chinanzvavana and Tembo were attending a workshop organised by a non-governmental organisation, Save the Children, when the text messages were sent. There are over 400 witnesses that could testify over this matter.

“Hodzi was actually here in Harare, in detention at the Harare Central Police Station.

“So our argument is that the State has failed to link the three to the alleged murder of Zvirongwe. We are also following up on the issue of bail,” said Zhuwarara.

The prosecutor challenged the application arguing that the defence should have brought the issues when the matter came to court for initial remand.

The State argues there is reasonable suspicion that an offence was committed and insists the matter be brought to trial.

Chinanzvavana, Tembo and Hodzi were arrested a fortnight ago on the basis of text messages implicating the trio in Zvirongwe’s abduction. The text messages were sent to a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation radio presenter Richmond Siyakurima.

The police allege that Zvirongwe sent Siyakurima a text message on his mobile phone alerting him about his kidnapping, which reads “Ndatakurwa nemabhinya asi ndaziwa Hodzi,” (I have been abducted by some murderers, but I have identified [Givemore] Hodzi.)

Besides Siyakurima, the police also allege that Zvirongwe send text messages to Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, Assistant Inspector Chidakwa and to an unnamed District Administrator singling Tembo, Chinanzvavana and Hodzi as his kidnappers.