LITTLE-known Zimbabwe People Front party president Owen Kuchata yesterday reneged on his “guilty” plea bargain deal with the State on charges of attempting to bomb Gushungo Dairy processing plant, thereby setting the stage for a full public trial.
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
Kuchata was initially jointly charged with military intelligence officers Borman Ngwenya, Solomon Makombe and Silas Pfupa, on insurgency, sabotage, banditry or terrorism and money-laundering charges. They were remanded to February 16, but Kuchata was brought to court earlier after reaching a plea arrangement with the State.
However, Kuchata, while all but confirming financing and planning the bombing of the Gushungo Dairy processing plant, questioned how President Robert Mugabe’s private property could be termed State property to sustain the sabotage or terrorism charges.
“I have one question for the prosecutor: Has Robert Mugabe’s private property anything to do with government?” Kuchata asked.
Prosecutor Michael Reza was taken aback before he attempted to explain how the property can be classified as State property.
“This was an attack on the Office of the President. The attack was aimed at the institution of the Presidency,” Reza said.
Presiding magistrate Hosiah Mujaya ruled that he had changed the plea to not guilty and now the matter would have to go for full trial.
“If you are disputing the facts, I am left with no option, but to change your plea to not guilty and then have the matter go for a full trial,” Mujaya said.
On the second count of money-laundering, Kuchata confirmed supplying the money used for the purchase of the material used to make the petrol bombs. He, however, said he had a right to bomb the property because Mugabe was causing the suffering in the country.
“As a representative of the masses of Zimbabwe, I had a right to bomb Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s private property,” Kuchata said. Mujaya then told the accused that when pleading guilty to charges, it simply means one has also to agree with the facts that form the charges.
“In the circumstances, the court alters your plea from guilty to not guilty and you will have a full trial.” Earlier Mujaya ordered the State prosecutor to have shackles removed from Kuchata if he is in court. The police officers had brought the accused wearing remand prison garb and he was kept in shackles allegedly for security reasons, but Mujaya said people in court should not be shackled or handcuffed.