Biti Challenges “Unsuitable” Prosecutor As Trial Commences

The trial of opposition political party leader Tendai Biti on charges of contravening the Electoral Act commenced on Monday 12 November 2018 with the human rights lawyer challenging the involvement of Michael Reza as the lead prosecutor.

As trial commenced before Harare Magistrate Gloria Takundwa, Biti filed an application objecting to the involvement of Reza as lead prosecutor.

Biti’s lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa, Alec Muchadehama and Jeremiah Bamu told Magistrate Takundwa that Reza should recuse himself from prosecuting Biti as he was not fit to be a prosecutor.

The lawyers charged that Reza is not independent or impartial as provided in section 260 of the Constitution and had acted in a partisan manner when he deposed an affidavit in the High Court accusing Biti of inciting and masterminding the 01 August 2018 violence, where members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces killed six people.

“How can an independent prosecutor make a judgement that the accused person is the one who was leading the August first shootings? Is he saying that the accused person is the one who orders the soldiers to go into the street and fire live ammunition on to the civilians?

“In his affidavit, Mr Reza clearly shows that he is already finding the accused person guilty of other counts which are not known to him. The August violence is still not known who caused it and the commission is sitting on a hearing but Mr Reza is here accusing the accused person of that, then how justice be prevailed to the accused person?” she queried.

Reza submitted an opposing affidavit in a matter in which Biti is seeking a review of Harare Magistrate Francis Mapfumo’s decision not to release his passport to allow him to travel outside the country to seek medical treatment.

The lawyers argued that leaving Reza to conduct the trial would be prejudicial to Biti hence the National Prosecuting Authority should assign someone else to lead the prosecution.

Magistrate Takundwa will hand down her ruling on Biti’s application on Thursday 15 November 2018.

Six witnesses are scheduled to testify against Biti during the trial.