January violence: lawyers trade barbs

ACCUSATIONS and counter claims of assault have been traded in a slanging match between two lawyers in a case in which opposition MDC Alliance MPs are being tried for allegedly inciting last month’s violent protests.

BY Stephen Chadenga/Richard Chidza

Gweru-based lawyer, Brian Dube has accused Zanu PF activist and losing candidate in the ruling party primary elections for Gweru Urban, Tinomudaishe Chinyoka of threatening him in court with unspecified action.

Dube was representing Chiwundura MP Livingstone Chimina (MDC Alliance), who is facing charges of inciting violence.

The lawyer, who is also MDC MP for Gweru Urban, made the submissions before Gweru provincial magistrate, Charity Maphosa on Monday and alleged that prior to commencement of Chimina’s trial, Chinyoka, who was seated in the front row in the court gallery patted his shoulder and told him that he was going to “deal with him”.

Chinyoka, a Harare-based lawyer, is mentioned in the defence outline as the one behind Chimina’s arrest in a bid to effect a by-election in Chiwundura and other constituencies in the Midlands province where the opposition legislators have pending cases before the courts.

Maphosa, who conceded to Dube’s submissions for the threats to be put on (court) record, however, said she would not comment on the allegations and would not ask the prosecution to respond to the claims.

“I will only put your submissions (threats) on record, but would not respond and neither would I ask the prosecution to respond,” Maphosa said.

Dube alleged that Chinyoka was handed the defence outline by a member of the prosecuting team led by Namatirai Chipere.

He said after being handed the defence statement, Chinyoka approached him and made the threats.

“I was seated at the bar waiting for trial to start when a guy I don’t know approached me and patted my shoulder before asking if I knew who he was,” Dube submitted.

“When I told him I didn’t know him he then threatened me with unspecified action and said I was going to know him if I went ahead to drag his name in this case. Ever since I came to court with this matter, I have been seeing the guy milling around the courts and when I saw one of the prosecutors giving him the defence papers I thought he was part of the prosecution team.”

Dube said he had asked the magistrate to put his submissions on record since the incident had happened in court.

Chinyoka has, however, made counter-accusations against Dube.

“I did not touch him. We were seated in court and he was in front of me, at least a metre or so (away). The whole thing is a creation by these people to try and divert attention from the fact that they have been paying-off witnesses.”

“There are cases in which people who reported that their goods were looted in the January violence and their stalls destroyed, have refused to testify. This is because suddenly their stalls have been rebuilt and restocked by people they don’t want to disclose. This has come to the attention of the prosecution and precautions have been made to protect witnesses. Dube and his colleagues are angry at this,” Chinyoka told NewsDay yesterday.

Dube made a complaint at Gweru Central Police Station after the “assault”, leading to Chinyoka’s arrest.

The Zanu PF losing candidate for Gweru Urban has since been charged with assault and threats of future violence.

Meanwhile, Maphosa granted the application by prosecution to have Chimina’s trial proceed in camera after the State indicated that one of the State witnesses had allegedly been threatened by unknown people.

Although defence counsel had argued that the application was baseless and an attempt to deny their client a “fair public hearing”, Maphosa said there was no prejudice suffered by the accused if the matter was conducted in camera.

Do you have a coronavirus story? You can email us on: news@alphamedia.co.zw