By James Muonwa
THE trial of 12 MDC Alliance officials arrested February this year at the party’s Chinhoyi offices during a meeting police claim was in defiance of Covid-19 lockdown regulations, was Tuesday deferred due to the absence of a key state witness.
The court heard the state had failed to summon an unidentified chief witness to testify in the matter.
The matter was remanded to 6 May when trial is expected to start.
MDC Alliance Mashonaland West chairman, Raphael Magunje, who is among the accused persons, confirmed the deferment.
“The trial could not proceed as the state had not called its key witness on time. Therefore, the matter was further moved and we will be back in court on 6 May for the start of trial,” said Magunje.
Defence lawyer, Fortune Murisi argues the opposition officials did not commit any offence while describing their arrests as unlawful.
Last month, Murisi lodged an unsuccessful application for refusal of further remand before Chinhoyi magistrate Lisa Mutendereki.
The presiding magistrate ruled there was a prima facie case prompting the set down of the matter.
The group is facing charges of contravening the national lockdown restrictions by holding an illegal meeting, knowing that such gathering is prohibited.
The 12 are part of the party’s Mashonaland West provincial administrative committee (PAC).
The officials are; provincial chairman Ralph Magunje (50), Tawanda Bvumo (47), Emmanuel Chinanzvavana (48), Edward Dzeka (45), Kuda Mandishona (45), Kudakwashe Chigumo (50), Richard Vitirinyu (40), Wilson Makanyaire (38), Abigail Usai (47), Collen Mapfumo (35), provincial spokesperson Blessing Mandava (43) and Pauline Sibanda (27).
Some of the MDC officials pictured with their lawyer
The state case is that on 20 February this year at around 1 pm, the officials, acting in common purpose with others who are still at large, gathered at the MDC Alliance party offices at 11048 Fairview, Mzari, Chinhoyi to hold an illegal meeting.
The officials were not exempted to attend such a gathering under the Covid-19 regulations.
Police were subsequently tipped off on the gathering leading to their arrest.
Review Nikisi represented the state.