After four false starts, ZimRights national director Okay Machisa, had his bail application heard in the High Court Monday on charges that the rights group fraudulently registered voters.
Submitting the bail application, Machisa’s attorney, Beatrice Mtetwa, said Magistrate Tendai Mahwe erred when he denied bail two weeks ago.
Mtetwa argued to High Court Judge Felistas Chatukuta that Magistrate Mahwe should not have judged Machisa as a flight risk because he surrendered himself to the police after he heard that they wanted to question him, even though he was in South Africa, on his way to Poland at the time.
Following his return, Mtetwa said Machisa remained at his residence and went to work as usual.
She said the police never looked for Machisa at his house or office but instead embarked on what she called “a wild goose chase”, looking for the rights activist at Leopard Rock in Vumba in the eastern highlands.
Mtetwa also criticized the magistrate for considering questions not placed before him, such as his finding that there would be “a public outcry” if Machisa was released on bail.
She alleged that the magistrate included that language in order to be seen as “politically correct.”
State Attorney Innocent Chingarande conceded that the magistrate erred but defended the decision not to allow Machisa’s release on bail.
The prosecution argues that Machisa is a flight risk and that he may try to tamper with evidence and the police investigation if released.
Chingarande said investigations are still ongoing because ZimRights has several offices throughout the country.
In response, Mtetwa quoted court records saying that police investigations were supposed to conclude Monday. She also attacked the claim that Machisa might tamper with evidence, saying the police have searched ZimRights’ headquarters and Chinhoyi and Bulawayo offices twice and found no incriminating evidence.
Chingarande said Machisa should not be granted bail because of the serious nature of the charges against him. Mtetwa cited precedents wherein accused persons facing more serious charges like treason and murder have been granted bail.
Judge Chatukuta said she will hand down her judgment Tuesday.
Machisa is accused of fraudulently registering voters but is denying the charges.