Tongai Matutu, the Deputy Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Empowerment, was on Thursday convicted of assaulting Chief Serima and fined $100 or face five days in prison.
Masvingo magistrate Oliver Mudzongachiso found Matutu guilty of assaulting Vengesai Rushwaya, the reigning Chief Serima, when the two met and had an altercation at a township where the chief was having drinks in September.
Matutu is the MDC-T MP for Masvingo Urban constituency. His lawyer, Douglas Mwonzora, however immediately gave notice of intention to appeal at the High Court against both conviction and sentence.
“We are going to challenge the conviction. It is clear that this is a political conviction. For example, it was clear that the state was interfering with justice.
Warned and cautioned statements that exonerated the accused were changed in court,” said Mwonzora. He said the first statement recorded from Chief Serima at Chatsworths Police Station clearly had the chief saying he was poked by Matutu in the head. In a different statement recorded later at the Masvingo Magistrates’ Court, Chief Serima added that he was also hit with the back of the hand and with clenched fists, before being drenched with beer by Matutu.
Matutu is believed to be the party strategist in Masvingo and responsible for Zanu PF’s first ever defeat in the constituency.
Charges against Matutu are that on September 25 and at Matizha Business Centre in Gutu, the MP met Chief Serima who was drinking beer at Mupiwa Bottle Store in the company of his two brothers, Naftal Serima and Gondo Pindura Marufu.
Matutu, who was coming from Stephen Business Centre with party youths, passed in front of the chief without greeting him.
Chief Serima questioned why the deputy minister did not greet him, leading to a misunderstanding.
In passing sentence, Mudzongachiso considered that Matutu was a first offender and a government minister.
In his defence, Matutu said the chief had been assaulted by a party youth, Antony Makuvaza, and not by him.