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Biti escapes with just a fine over false election result declaration

by ZimLive
18 Feb 2019 at 13:29hrs | Views
Sentencing … Tendai Biti and magistrate Gloria Takundwa in court on Monday
MDC deputy chairman Tendai Biti was fined $200 by a court in Harare on Monday after he was convicted of falsely declaring an election victory for his party leader Nelson Chamisa in July last year.

Prosecutors had asked Harare magistrate Gloria Takundwa to give Biti a custodial sentence.

With Chamisa watching proceedings from the gallery, Takundwa sentenced Biti to a $200 fine on the first count of announcing results before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and a suspended six-month jail term on the second count of declaring Chamisa the winner.

Biti "presented his announcement as authentic and his actions had potential to undermine the official announcement by ZEC," the magistrate ruled.

"The accused announced that they (MDC-Alliance) had results that showed that the next president of Zimbabwe is Nelson Chamisa at which time ZEC had not finished collating results. Evidence from the State's four witnesses was not discredited. The accused in his testimony said he held a press conference to compel ZEC to quickly announce results. The intention of the Act is to prevent such behaviour exhibited by the accused which undermines the authority of ZEC," the magistrate said.

Jonathan Murombedzi, for the prosecution, had asked the magistrate to jail Biti for a total of 12 months – six for each count.

"A custodial sentence will meet justice while a fine will trivialise the matter," the prosecutor said.

Alec Muchadehama, for Biti, said the former finance minister was a first offender and a fine would suffice.

In the end, Takundwa fined the politician and gave him a suspended six-month jail term on condition of good behaviour. He is not to commit a similar offence within five years.

Biti's trial heard that a day after voting on July 31 last year, he called a press conference at which he declared that from returns seen by their agents at voting centres, Chamisa had won the election. He called on ZEC to release election results which he said would confirm his assertions.

ZEC did not announce the final results until the early hours of August 4 by which time riots had broken out in Harare, and the army deployed. Six people were killed and 35 others were shot, an inquiry concluded by the military and police.

Zanu-PF's Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner of the elections held on July 30, 2018, but the MDC refuses to recognise him as President claiming the result was rigged.

Source - ZimLive