ZIMBABWE – “WE wanted to bomb Mugabe’s private property because Robert Mugabe is causing disorder and problems in this country; and it was my idea.
“I had the right to do so because I’m working for the interests of people of this nation,” a man accused of trying to bomb President Robert Mugabe’s dairy firm told a Harare court Friday.
Zimbabwe People’s Front president, Owen Kuchata, 34, faces charges of attempting to bomb the First Family’s Alpha Omega Dairy farm in Mazowe.
He is jointly charged with alleged accomplices Borman Ngwenya, 30, Solomon Makumbe, 29, and Silas Pfupa, 37.
Makumbe and Ngwenya are said to be army intelligence operatives. Charges against the duo were withdrawn before they were promptly re-arrested in a development that saw Prosecutor General (PG) Johannes Tomana charged with obstructing the course of justice.
Kuchata initially pleaded guilty to possession of weaponry for sabotage as well as money laundering, admitting he organised the bomb attempt on the dairy.
He however, rejected charges by prosecutors that he wanted to overthrow the government, arguing that the dairy firm was private and not government property.
“Your Worship, I have a question, ‘Is Gushungo Dairy the property of the Government of Zimbabwe or the property of Robert Mugabe as an individual?'” Kachuta asked the court
Prosecutor Michael Reza insisted that terrorism charges were appropriate, saying the attack was not targeted at the dairy as an entity, but at the office of the Presidency of Zimbabwe.
Kuchata said if that was the case then he was denying the charges and this prompted magistrate Mujaya to change the plea to not guilty.
His trial was then set for February 24.
The case took a political dimension following the arrest of Tomana which was condemned by the opposition and human rights lawyers.
The prosecutor general’s officer withdrew charges against Makumbe and Ngwenya saying they would become chief state witnesses in the case.
Tomana was arrested and charged with obstructing the course of justice. He was released on $1,000 bail.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has condemned his arrest and lamented the “continued interference by government in the justice delivery system”.
“Arresting and detaining the head of an independent prosecutorial authority purportedly due to disagreements on how he has decided to prosecute a matter is not correct; neither is it in any way acceptable,” the organization said.
“Such behaviour is a direct assault on the Office of the Prosecutor General and the independence of the NPA as an institution. It is an attack on the justice delivery system and the Constitution.”
Law lecturer and opposition politician Professor Lovemore Madhuku also said Tomana’s arrest was unconstitutional.
“Section 260(1) of the Constitution is explicit that the Prosecutor- General ‘is independent and is not subject to the direction or control of anyone and must exercise his or her functions impartially and without fear, favour, prejudice or bias’,” said Madhuku.
“What this means, at law is that the Prosecutor General, while performing his duties, is allowed to make mistakes, commit errors of judgment or even abuse his office without answering to anyone, including the President.”