Zimbabwe's High Court frees man who 'spied' for SA

An outgoing lawmaker and senior official in President Robert Mugabe’s party charged with spying for neighbouring South Africa has been freed by the High Court, Saturday’s papers said.

Phillip Chiyangwa, until recently a provincial chairperson of the ruling Zimbabwe National African Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) party, is alleged to have led a spy ring with five others, including Zanu-PF party security officials, diplomats, and a banker.

He was arrested on December 15 and detained pending his trial, a date for which has not yet been set. High Court judge Charles Hungwe however said there was not sufficient basis to keep Chiyangwa in custody, as ordered by a lower magistrate’s court.

The state-run Herald said Hungwe freed Chiyangwa, who had sought a review of his case, on grounds that the information the state relied on to incarcerate him was “vague and imprecise”.

“The way the magistrate handled the matter was untoward and injudicious. The language he used was overzealous,” Hungwe was quoted by The Daily Mirror as saying.

“It has become a trend that a suspect is virtually tried, charged and sentenced by the press.
The magistrate carried the media’s view into the court ... the applicant is entitled to his immediate release,” Hungwe said according to paper.

Three others accused along with Chiyangwa were convicted earlier this month by magistrate Peter Kumbawa and given sentences of between five and six years in jail.

The trio, who include a Zimbabwean diplomat, were accused of providing President Thabo Mbeki’s government with information on Zanu-PF party’s affairs.

The three men were found guilty of breaching the Official Secrets Act, a violation that carries a maximum 20-year jail sentence. All plan to appeal the verdicts.

The scandal erupted when an alleged South African spy was nabbed by Zimbabwe Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives at Victoria Falls in December and later revealed the names of collaborators within Zanu-PF.

Zimbabwe is holding the South African, who has been described in media reports as a white male and a veteran operative. - Sapa-AFP

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