Tsvangirai aide pleads not guilty

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Harare – An aide to Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges arising from his reporting of election irregularities in the disputed vote won by President Robert Mugabe.

Morgan Komichi, the deputy chair of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Tsvangirai’s delegate to the electoral commission, was arrested last month after he reported that marked ballot papers had been found in a dustbin.

The ballots, which were marked in favour of Tsvangirai, were from early voting organised for security forces on 14 and 15 July.

But when Komichi showed the ballots to the authorities while refusing to identify the whistleblower who led him to them, he was arrested on charges of fraud and tampering with ballot papers.

Komichi, who appeared in court shackled in leg-irons, did not speak, but his lawyer said he would seek to have the charges dropped.

“The accused understands the charges that he is facing and denies them all,” lawyer Alec Muchadehama told the magistrate’s court.

He will “pray that he be acquitted and discharged,” Muchadehama said.

Mugabe, in power in Zimbabwe since 1980, won the 31 July polls by a landslide of 61% against Tsvangirai’s 34%.

The former prime minister has rejected the election results alleging “massive fraud”.

Lawyer Muchadehama said Komichi would testify that the dumping of ballots was “just a tip of the iceberg” of irregularities in the vote.

“Instead of investigating and getting to the root of what could have been happening, ZEC (Zimbabwe Election Commission) sought to divert attention from its inefficiencies and deficiencies” by arresting Komichi, Muchadehama said, reading the defence outline.

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