Justice came fast for opposition leader Owen Kuchata of the Zimbabwe People’s Front, one four Zimbabweans accused of trying to bomb a dairy farm that belongs to the President Robert Mugabe and his family, last month.
Kuchata, who pleaded guilty to charges of “possession of weaponry for sabotage, and money laundering for terrorism purposes,” will serve 9-years behind bars for his crimes, for which he took full responsibility.
On the first charge of terrorism, Harare regional magistrate, Hosea Mujaya handed Kuchata a 9-year-jail sentence but suspended one year of the sentence, on condition that he (Kuchata) not commit a similar offence in five years.
On the second count of money laundering arising from the money he raised for buying equipment to make petrol bombs, Mujaya sentenced Kuchata to two-years, with one year of the sentence set to run concurrently with the sentence for count one.
Mujaya’s sentence could be considered light by some, as terrorism carries a maximum life sentence, while maximum penalty for money laundering is 35-years. The judge however reportedly gave Kuchata a lower sentence because he was a first offender and had shown contrition by asking from forgiveness, for his actions.
Kuchata earlier told the court he did not want to remove President Robert Mugabe from power but simply wanted to bomb the farm so that the President could feel the pain Zimbabweans are experiencing as a result of house demolitions in Harare.
Magistrate Mujaya told Kuchata that there were other ways to communicate his message, other than the one he chose, which she said could be expected in countries like Afghanistan.
Among those in court, supporting Kuchata were his wife, Joyline, who said the family would not be appealing the judge’s decision, and another family member Kasimos Musakanda, who expressed gratitude for the judge Mujaya’s leniency.
"Obviously, we are at pain about it. But we have seen that the judgement has considered his plight as well,” said Musakanda. “I think he (Kuchata) showed a lot of contrition and the judge take (took) note of that. And we are happy he (Mujaya) understood him (Kuchata) in a way.”
Kuchata is to appear in court next week with the three men he was arrested with, namely Solomon Makumbe, Silas Pfupa and Borman Ngwenya, to face charges of treason, a crime that carries the death penalty in Zimbabwe.
Court papers say besides planning to bomb Mugabe's dairy farm, the four wanted to overthrow President Mugabe, who has ruled the country for more than three decades and turns 92 in two weeks time.
The case sucked in Zimbabwe’s Prosecutor General, Johannes Tomana who was arrested for withdrawing charges against Makumbe and Pfupa before a plea, so that they could become state witnesses in the matter.
Tomana, who was charged with abusing his office, is currently out of jail after posting $1000 bail.