BULAWAYO — Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday said he would rather rot in jail than pull his party out of the inclusive government and play into the hands of Zanu PF whose plot was to collapse the Government of National Unity (GNU) by arresting him.
As Tsvangirai spoke while addressing thousands of supporters in Bulawayo, the High Court in Harare ordered the release of Jameson Timba, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, who was arrested last Friday on allegations of undermining the authority of President Robert Mugabe.
Zanu PF politburo member Professor Jonathan Moyo was last week calling for the arrest of Tsvangirai and Timba for the reasons that Timba was later taken into custody.
Tsvangirai and Timba reportedly said the President had lied about the outcome of the Sadc summit held in South Africa.
Tsvangirai — who was addressing a peace rally at White City Stadium attended by about 7 000 supporters — said it was mind-boggling that the Member of the House of Assembly for Tsholotsho North, Moyo, could order the arrest of people.
“Today Moyo is behaving like the leader of Zanu PF. He is saying arrest Timba and he gets arrested. He is also saying arrest Tsvangirai. They know that if they arrest Tsvangirai, MDC might pull out of the coalition government and that might be its end. That is what they want.
“If they ever arrest me and incarcerate me in the cells, let me rot in there, their plans should never succeed.
“We went into the transitional government knowing that everything would be a fight, foot by foot. We are not going to be intimidated,” he said.
Timba was arrested as he walked out of his office at Munhumutapa Building in Harare last Friday.
He was released from police custody after a drama-filled scenario outside the High Court yesterday afternoon.
High Court judge Justice Joseph Musakwa ordered Timba’s immediate release, but the police pounced and ordered him into their Defender open truck and drove him back to the police station.
Speaking to reporters soon after being released, Timba revealed he had been denied food and was not informed what charges he was facing since he was arrested on Friday afternoon.
He was only advised of the charges moments before his appearance in court yesterday.
Meanwhile, the South African facilitation team to the Zimbabwe crisis yesterday expressed concern over the latest developments in the country and said they would seek audience with President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.
The spokesperson for South African President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team, Lindiwe Zulu, said the GPA partners needed to take responsibility of the GPA collectively to ensure that they would work together well.
“At the moment we don’t have a clear picture of what is going on, but we shall talk to the negotiators and the principals for information. We will talk to them and get a full report on the issue (of Timba’s arrest) before we can comment. But the GPA partners have a responsibility to implement the agreement,” she said.
In a judgment delivered at 12.30pm yesterday, Justice Musakwa said Timba’s rights had been violated as he was arrested and detained without being informed of the charges he was facing.
The State, led by the chief law officer in the Attorney-General’s Office, Chris Mutangadura, told the judge that Timba was scheduled to appear in court today, but the judge said “that would not cure that there were breaches of his rights” and that there was no justification for his continued detention.
Mutangadura said the State would comply with the order but said Timba would be taken to court once police finished their investigations.
The minister said he was denied access to his lawyers and was detained in lice-infested, cold police cells.
“I did not eat anything until this morning. But other than that and the cold and lice, I’m OK,” said Timba, who said he was initially detained at Harare Central Police Station, after which he was taken to the notorious Matapi Police Station and then St Mary’s Police Station in Chitungwiza.
There was drama outside the High Court before Timba was finally freed. Detectives blocked him from getting into his official Mercedes Benz. The development triggered a standoff between Timba’s lawyers and the detectives, who insisted on releasing the minister at the police station.
Timba’s legal team — comprising Selby Hwacha, Advocate Thabani Mpofu and Innocent Chagonda — however, wanted the minister to be released at the High Court, arguing that the court order stated that he should be released “immediately”.
They said they feared the police, who were constantly phoning their superiors for instructions, would lock up Timba again once they arrived at the police station.
“You can’t release him like a bird, which you just let fly away,” a detective said. “We have to follow certain procedures.”
The lawyers, however, maintained it was not necessary to take Timba to the police station given that Justice Musakwa had ordered his immediate release.
The lawyers challenged the detectives over their interpretation of the word “immediate”, but this infuriated one of the detectives who then retorted: “Are you insinuating that we are failing to interpret the court ruling?”
The defence lawyers then suggested that Justice Musakwa should be sought to interpret his ruling, but they failed to locate him as he had left his chambers. State counsel Mutangadura had also gone.
Timba was later forcibly taken to the police station in the back of a white Defender vehicle accompanied by Hwacha, three detectives and four police officers who were called in as reinforcements.
The minister was released after the detectives recorded a warned-and-cautioned statement from him. Tsvangirai said as far as he was concerned, it looked like minister Timba had no case to answer.