By Kumbirai Mafunda
Harare Magistrate Gloria Takundwa on Monday 18 February 2019 sentenced human rights lawyer and MDC-Alliance Vice-Chairperson Hon. Tendai Biti to pay $200 fine after convicting him for contravening some provisions of the Electoral Act.
Magistrate Takundwa convicted Hon. Biti after ruling that the State had managed to prove its case against the Harare East constituency legislator beyond any reasonable doubt.
Hon. Biti had been on trial after he was arrested in August 2018 and charged with contravening section 66(A)(1) and 66A(1)(b) of the Electoral Act for allegedly unlawfully and unofficially announcing the 30 July 2018 presidential election results.
During trial, Hon. Biti, who was represented by Beatrice Mtetwa and Alec Muchadehama of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, pleaded not guilty to the charges and challenged the court’s jurisdiction to hear his case on the basis that he was seized and unlawfully brought into Zimbabwe from Zambia in violation of the deportation and asylum laws of Zambia and of an order of court issued by the High Court in Zambia in breach of international law regarding the extradition of people facing offences of a political nature.
In mitigation, Muchadehama argued that there was no longer any need to impose any punishment on the human rights lawyer as he had endured punishment already when his fundamental rights were curtailed since August 2018 including attacks and harassment targeted at himself, his family and relatives and being asked to report three times a day at Harare Central Police Station.
In aggravation, State prosecutor Jonathan Murombedzi had urged Magistrate Takundwa to sentence Hon. Biti to serve one-year in prison arguing that imposing payment of a fine or serving community service would trivialise the matter.
On Monday 18 February 2019, Hon. Biti evaded serving jail time after he paid the $200 fine. Magistrate Takundwa had said failure by Hon. Biti to pay the $200 fine would result in him being sentenced to serve seven days in prison.