By Own Correspondent
The leader of a small opposition party jailed for nine years over a plot to bomb a milk production facility owned by the late former President Robert Mugabe has been freed on bail by the High Court.
Owen Kuchata, leader of the tiny Zimbabwe People’s Front Party, had served five years of his nine-year sentence before becoming due for release last year under a presidential clemency order.
He could not be released, however, because of a second pending indictment for treason.
Justice Tawanda Chitapi on Tuesday ordered Kuchata freed on Z$5,000 bail, the judge noting that his co-accused are already out on bail.
Kuchata, who had no lawyer, was previously denied bail by Justice Davison Foroma, but he succeeded this time because Justice Chitapi said there were changed circumstances.
Ruled Justice Chitapi: “In considering this application, it should be kept in mind that applicant has benefited from the Presidential Clemency Order of 2020 and would have been released in regard to his conviction was it not for the fact that he is in custody consequent on the indictment for treason.
“His accomplices were granted bail on the same charge and facts pending a decision on the dilatory pleas which they and the applicant raised. The court has determined the outstanding hurdle in trial continuance. In my view, this is a new fact which entitles the court to reconsider whether or not the applicant should be granted bail.
“In considering the application, it is noted that the response by National Prosecuting Authority’s counsel Mr (Tapiwa) Kasema to the application was a simple allegation that there was no change in circumstances to warrant revisiting the court’s judgment (by Justice Foroma).
“Since the applicant has served the sentence, he stands in the same position as the others. There is no suggestion that the applicant will not stand his trial or commit a similar offence. It is not argued that he may interfere with witnesses and in any event, trial actually started because the applicant and his accomplices pleaded to the charge.”
Kuchata was convicted and jailed after pleading guilty to charges of insurgency, sabotage, banditry or terrorism in February 2016.
He was jointly charged with Solomon Makumbe and Silas Pfupa who were both turned state witnesses by the prosecution, a decision which would see Prosecutor General Johannes Tomana sacked from his job.
A fourth suspect, Borman Ngwenya, was acquitted after a full trial in May the same year.
Ngwenya was a Zimbabwe National Army corporal while Makumbe and Pfupa were Central Intelligence Organization agents. They all claimed they were working undercover to thwart Kuchata’s mission – but Mugabe and his family suspected a military-approved plot.
The trial court heard that the four men underwent militia training in Mapinga, Mashonaland West, where they planned to commit terror acts.
The court heard they then went to Mugabe’s rural home in Zvimba where they carried investigations identifying suitable vulnerable points to sabotage.
The quartet, according to prosecutors, were minutes from carrying out their mission to bomb Alpha Omega Dairy in Mazowe when they were intercepted by counter intelligence detectives just 100 meters from their target.
A search revealed that they were carrying Molotov cocktails (petrol bombs), ammonium nitrate, nails, and sand.
As part of his bail conditions, Kuchata was ordered to continue residing at his Southerton residence, report at the police once every Friday and not interfere with witnesses.