Former Finance minister Tendai Biti has accused a Harare businesswoman of abusing state institutions, including the Office of the President and judiciary, to protect her business interests and fight opponents.
Biti, who is also the opposition Citizen Coalition for Change deputy leader made the claims on Friday at the Harare magistrates’ courts where he wants his case of verbally assaulting the businesswoman Tatiana Aleshina referred to the Constitutional Court.
Aleshina is a business partner of property developer Ken Sharpe and she accused Biti of verbally assaulting her after a court appearance two years ago.
The former minister also dragged in Zanu PF secretary for finance Patrick Chinamasa and Information ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana into the case, saying their comments following his arrest showed that his accuser wielded a lot of influence in top offices.
Biti said letters from Aleshina that form court records in a litany of cases against Sharpe have exposed her links with the executive as well as her influence over the judiciary.
She said Aleshina used her influence over the Office of the President and judiciary to secure a deed of settlement signed between Sharpe’s company, Augur Investments and Local Government minister July Moyo in 2019 that legalised the takeover of vast tracts of land in Harare.
Biti said the deed of settlement also granted criminal immunity to Sharpe, Aleshina and their associates, Michael Van Blerk, and Alexander Sheremet, among others.
He said due to Aleshina’s influence, the Harare City Council was forced to withdraw criminal charges against Van Blerk.
- Belgian king, in shadow of colonial past, to visit DR Congo
- ‘Govt spineless on wetland land barons’
- Harare cancels Pomona waste deal
- Devolution gains remain a mirage
“In 2019 Van Blerk was prosecuted,” Biti said.
“Sharpe and Sheremet were fugitives during the time,” he said. “One of the prosecutors was Mr Michael Reza (acting deputy prosecutor general) and the matter was withdrawn due to the influence of Tatiana Aleshina.”
He said an application of exception was made, but was dismissed by the court after the execution of the deed of settlement.
This, Biti said, was after Aleshina evoked the deed in a letter to the then town clerk Hoseah Chisango.
"It's sad that the first issue I have is the clear blatant abuse of the Office of the President, the highest office in the land and this name calling is an abuse to the state institutions. How on earth is someone safe? That's why my application is important,” Biti said.
"These are judicial proceedings. Why are we politicising these proceedings? That's a clear abuse of state institutions.
“Only the National Prosecuting Authority has the power to withdraw any matters, not the Local Government ministry.”
He produced a letter by Sharpe’s lawyers, Chinawa Law Chambers, who also invoked the deed of settlement, demanding the withdrawal of charges against Van Blerk, because of the criminal immunity provided by the deed.
"We are lucky that we have black-and-white evidence about the judicial and executive interference by the complainant,” Biti added.
"Why am I being prosecuted by a regional court and what happened for my case to be talked about d by Mr Chinamasa of Zanu and how?
“Why was it tweeted by Mr Mangwana (Nick Mangwana)? This only shows that she's powerful.
“The power of interference of Aleshina is illustrated by George Katsimberis in that application.
"Where the state is prosecuting two different persons on the same sets of facts where Katsimberis is being prosecuted and the same state is prosecuting Van Blerk, Pokugara and others on the same facts,” Biti said.
“Katsimberis’s matter was dismissed on a technicality.
“Their main reason was that his lawyers had used the wrong forms in making a chamber application.
“So, the court did go on the merits. And in fact, the issue of merits is concurrently before this court.
"Our institutions are not safe from the complainant.
“The Office of the President and our judicial service are not safe.
“ I, therefore, request that this matter be referred to the Constitutional Court in terms of section 100 of the constitution.”
Katsimberis is suing Sharpe and his aide, Michael John Van Blerk as well as top Harare City Council officials for perjury and malicious damage to property after the local authority demolished his show house.
The breach of contract is seen to be a consistent pattern, said Biti.
“If you take, for example, Katsimberis and Sharpe entered into an agreement,” he said.
“ Sharpe entered the agreement as Pokugara Pvt Private and formed a company, Ecofriendly Pvt Ltd.
“Katsimberis spent a lot of money, but Sharpe cancelled the agreement on 11 January 2018 on the basis that the agreement is invalid because Katsimberis entered into the agreement with Pokugara Pvt Ltd yet his company is Polugara Properties
“The fraud comes into play in this way, you can’t enter into an agreement yourself as X and tomorrow you come and say, I am not X, I am Jameson and the agreement I signed with you is a nullity.
“This is fraud.
“In my case, I must ask the following. What powers and influence did she use to get me prosecuted on an assault charge in the regional court?
Biti explained how Fairclot constructed 2.7 km of the road but was never paid and how the company was given land in Pomona as security.
Magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti-Guwuriro postponed the case to December 15.