BY SILAS NKALA
MDC vice-president Tendai Biti’s three aides, who were accused of border jumping following the July 30, 2018 disputed polls, have been acquitted by Karoi magistrate Sam Chitumwa.
Biti’s lawyer Nqobizitha Mahole Mlilo and two of the opposition legislator’s aides, Clever Rambanepasi and Tawanda Blessing Chitekwe, had been on trial on charges of failing to present themselves to an immigration official as defined in the Immigration Act.
But Chitumwa on Friday found Mlilo, Rambanepasi and Chitekwe not guilty at the close of the State case and acquitted them.
The magistrate ruled that the State had failed to disprove the trio’s defence that they were asylum seekers when they left the country going to Zambia at the time when Biti was hounded out of Zimbabwe by State security agents.
Chitumwa also ruled that in the absence of evidence by the State supporting its argument that the trio was not seeking asylum, there was no basis to put them to their defence.
Mlilo, Rambanepasi and Chitekwe, who were out of custody on $100 bail each, were arrested together with Biti and charged with contravening the country’s immigration laws after they allegedly failed to present themselves to immigration authorities when they left Zimbabwe bound for Zambia on August 8, 2018.
Prosecutors claimed that the trio, represented by Jeremiah Bamu, connived at Chirundu One-Stop Border Post in Mashonaland West province to evade immigration clearance procedures to cross into Zambia.
They were arrested by officials from the Zimbabwean side of the border post.
The State had claimed that the trio failed to produce passports to both immigration authorities from Zambia and Zimbabwe to validate their exit and entry.
In denying the charge, the trio argued that the charge cited by the State of failing to present oneself to an immigration officer does not apply to asylum seekers, such as Biti and his lawyer and aides.
Bamu told the magistrate that his clients were abducted from Zambia by Zimbabwean authorities.