The trial of six Zanu PF activists accused of murdering a Gokwe MDC-T activist Moses Chokuda in 2009 kicked off on Monday after High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi rejected attempts by the defence to have the case moved to Harare.
The defence counsel led by Josinia Maupa and Ambrose Dururu, representing the accused, had made a pre-trial application to have the matter postponed and moved to either Harare or Bulawayo.
They argued their clients would not get a fair trial at the hands of local prosecutors, who had refused to release them even after they were granted $100 bail each by High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese.
The accused include Farai Machaya (32) son to Midlands governor and Zanu PF provincial chairman Jason Machaya, Abel Maphosa, Edmore (29) and Bothwell Gana.
The four who were indicted for trial are now out of custody on bail while the other two accused persons, Obert Gavi (25) and Tirivashoma Mawadza (25), represented by Jethro Nyarota and Mapfumo Mavesa respectively, remain in custody after they did not apply for bail.
Justice Mathonsi, sitting with assessors Jameson Dhlula and Wellington Matemba, ordered the trial to proceed in Gweru, ruling the judge could handle any forms of unfairness on the part of the State if any, were raised by the defence in the process of the trial.
The trial opened with all accused persons entering a plea of not guilty before Justice Mathonsi. The State, led by Daina Msipa, told the court they will call eight witnesses to give evidence against the accused persons.
The State told the court the six accused persons picked up Chokuda from his home in Machaya’s car after suspecting he was responsible for a break-in the previous night at Machaya’s shop in Gokwe. Msipa said four of the six accused took turns to assault Chokuda with booted feet and logs.
Yesterday, the trial could not proceed after one of the defence lawyers asked for adjournment because he was not feeling well.
Justice Mathonsi then adjourned the case to Wednesday although he warned trial would proceed with or without the lawyer if he does not turn up.
An autopsy compiled by a Dr PT Venge which will be produced in court shows Chokuda sustained fractures on his cervical spine,
an extensively bruised and swollen face and a “very immobile neck in rigor mortis” (stiffening at death).
Chokuda’s body lies uncollected at Gokwe District Hospital mortuary two-and-a-half years after he was reportedly murdered, with his family refusing to bury him until his alleged killers are brought to justice.
Unverified reports indicate the body of the slain MDC-T activist is still fresh and wounds
still oozing blood.
The victim’s father Tavengwa said his son was fighting his own battle from the realm of the dead to get justice from the living.