Tendai Biti's treason trial set for May

The treason trial of the secretary general of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Tendai Biti, has been set for May 4, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Biti faces two charges of seeking to oust veteran Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe.

He was accused of announcing the results of a disputed presidential election in March before the electoral body made them public and of authoring a document believed to plot Mugabe’s overthrow by rigging the polls.

“We have to prioritise this case in the second term of the high court,” prosecutor Tawanda Zvekare told a magistrate’s court when Biti appeared for a routine remand.

“We now have a concrete date on May 4 in the high court.”

But Biti’s lawyers opposed further remand, arguing that the state had failed to serve indictment papers since the case began last year and thereby delayed setting the trial date.

“We believe the breach of this undertaking is deliberate,” defence lawyer Lewis Uriri told the court. “It has nothing to do with matters of law.”

Magistrate Olivia Mariga is expected to rule on Friday whether to keep Biti on remand.

Biti, elected last year as an MP for a Harare constituency, is the chief opposition negotiator for Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC in talks leading to a government of national unity with Zanu-PF.

Zimbabwe’s Parliament is expected on Thursday to pass constitutional amendments to pave the way for a unity government to defuse political tensions and tackle the country’s crises.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) last month set a February 5 deadline for Parliament to pass the necessary constitutional amendments to allow for the long-delayed unity government.

They also set a February 11 deadline for the swearing in of Tsvangirai as prime minister. Ministers and deputy ministers are scheduled to be sworn in on February 13 to conclude the formation of the unity government.

Zimbabwe has been in political crisis since the disputed March polls.

Tsvangirai won a first round against Mugabe but pulled out of a scheduled run-off against the 84-year-old after dozens of his supporters were killed.—Sapa-AFP

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