Deputy Youth and Indigenisation minister Tongai Matutu told the court in Masvingo during his trial for allegedly assaulting Chief Serima that a political battle for the control of Masvingo constituency was behind the case.
Matutu, MDC-T Masvingo Urban MP, told magistrate Oliver Mudzongachiso the state was being arm-twisted by Zanu PF to “scrounge for a case where there was nothing and the prosecution was clutching at straws”.
The magistrate, however, concluded at the close of the state case that there was a prima facie case against the deputy minister and he had to be put to his defence.
By Wednesday, two defence witnesses Crispa Musoni, a local businessman from Gutu, and Wycliffe Matindike, an eyewitness, had testified and both swore the MP did not assault the chief. Musoni told the court he had in fact been one of the people who saved the chief from further assault by one Antony Makuvaza, an MDC-T activist.
He said the MP never laid a hand on the chief.
Matindike too said he witnessed the whole altercation and said it all happened while the MP was seated in his vehicle.
Prosecutor Frank Chirairo requested for a break during the proceedings saying he needed to consult his seniors, but the court turned him down after the MP’s lawyer Douglas Mwonzora objected.
In his testimony, Matutu told the court that he smelt a rat in the manner the state was handling the case especially as the complainant’s first statement to the police had been allegedly altered to incriminate him.
This, he said, was part of the grand plan to wrest Masvingo constituency from him.
“The courts are being used to fight me and my political career,” Matutu said. “I was arrested almost two weeks after the alleged offence was committed and seven days after the chiefs’ conference in Kariba where traditional leaders ganged up to call for my dismissal from government.
“There is a political battle which is far beyond what the courts can see. It is a real fight for the control of Masvingo. It is a fight with Zanu PF. I am being targeted by Zanu PF and this is not the first time the party has come after me,” Matutu claimed.
“Immediately after the harmonised elections, I fled Masvingo, leaving my one-and-half-month old baby after death threats were made against me. I spent two months sleeping in hotels and lodges. My life was in danger. It is in danger and remains in danger.”
He went on: “It is unfortunate to abuse the courts to settle political battles. Political battles should be to win the hearts and minds of the electorate. I am surprised I am being charged with assaulting Chief Serima, yet the other seven youths (accused of the same) have not been prosecuted.”
Mwonzora said the state had amended the charge sheet as there were now two statements recorded from Chief Serima and his brothers. The first statement did not incriminate Matutu.
Matutu is being accused of assaulting Chief Serima after the latter had questioned the deputy minister why he had not greeted him.