Binga North MP, Prince Dubeko Sibanda Thursday appeared before a Bulawayo Provincial Magistrate where he pleaded not guilty to inciting public violence.
The MDC Alliance top official is accused of distributing two face masks written ‘#Zanu-PF must go’ to two Pick n’ Pay Hyper employees in Bulawayo.
Sibanda’s lawyer, Nqobani Sithole from Ncube Attorneys told the court that Sibanda as an opposition politician was permitted to say the words because Zanu PF was his party’s political rival.
“As an honourable member of parliament and as a member of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, the message ‘#Zanu PF Must Go’ is ideal in that I have been consistently perpetrating since 2013. I believe in democratic processes to achieve this ideal,” Sibanda told court.
State witness Matthew Mutavayi alleged that Sibanda called out a male employee from Pick n’ Pay from his car to collect a mask written ‘#Zanu PF Must Go’ and the employee showed the mask to his female colleague who also went to ask for hers.
Said Mutavayi in his testimony, “I was in a queue awaiting my turn to have my temperature checked and get sanitised to gain entry into the shop.
“What irritated me was that employee just discarded his duty and rushed to Sibanda’s car. As a citizen who was waiting to get a service, I felt irritated.
“I then inquired from the two employees what it is that was exciting them that much which they had received from Sibanda. They proudly showed me their face masks and reiterated that indeed #Zanu PF Must Go.”
The state witness said in his view, the MP should have chosen a different venue to pursue his political agenda.
“He infringed on my rights as a citizen who was awaiting mere service at a shopping centre. Also judging from the political atmosphere in the country at that time, I feared for my life and safety as I felt Sibanda’s conduct would incite violence,” said Mutavayi.
However, Sithole dismissed Mutavayi’s testimony as baseless because of the disparity in the two’s political inclination.
Sithole told court that Mutayayi had a hidden agenda on the issue and was deliberately misleading the court.
He further submitted that the witness’s concerns emanated from that Sibanda and the employees shared a different political ideal.
“This is a display of overzealousness, mostly owing to the fact that you cannot tolerate people with different political beliefs. There was no point at which my client or employees said they would incite violence. In a democratic country like the Republic of Zimbabwe, people have freedom of expression and can choose whichever political party they so wish,” Sithole said,
Magistrate Tinashe Tashaya postponed the case to September 25.