Tendai Rupapa Harare Bureau
THE leader of a little-known political party was beginning a nine-year jail stretch yesterday after admitting a plot to bomb President Robert Mugabe’s private business, Alpha Omega Dairy, in Mazowe.
Owen Kuchata, 34, leader of the Zimbabwe People’s Front (ZPF), entered guilty pleas last Friday to two counts — one for possessing weaponry for sabotage and another for money laundering over the January 29 plot which was foiled by police.
On the first count of possessing weaponry for sabotage, Harare magistrate Hoseah Mujaya sentenced Kuchata to nine years before conditionally suspending one year.
For money laundering, Kuchata was slapped with a two-year jail-term.
Mujaya said that of the two years, one year will run concurrently with the eight years, leaving Kuchata with nine effective years.
Kuchata pleaded for the court’s leniency after Mujaya told him his crime could attract life imprisonment.
“I’m asking for forgiveness,” he said. “I’ll never repeat it. I’ve come to realise that what I did was wrong. I’m a father of one and the sole breadwinner also looking after my parents.”
When asked by Mujaya why he committed the crime, Kuchata said people’s houses were being demolished in settlements close to the Harare International Airport. He said he wanted President Mugabe to experience how it feels to have one’s property destroyed.
“I wanted him to also experience how it feels to have your private property demolished the way people who had their houses demolished,” he said. “I noticed how Zimbabweans are suffering and thought by bombing his private property, he’ll also feel the pain.”
Kuchata added, “I didn’t want to remove the President from power, but I only wanted him to feel the pain.”
He faces a related charge of treason with three other men: Solomon Makumbe, 29, Silas Pfupa, 37, and Borman Ngwenya, 30. They allegedly planned a terrorist attack on President Mugabe’s Zvimba home.
Ngwenya also faces a charge of possessing weaponry for sabotage. He was not sentenced alongside Kuchata after indicating he would be pleading ‘not guilty’.
The four men were arrested in the early hours of January 29 just metres from the dairy after police reportedly got wind of their plan and laid an ambush.
They were allegedly found in possession of four 750ml brandy bottles containing petrol, ammonium nitrate, nails, and sand – ingredients of a petrol bomb.
Party documents, including the ZPF manifesto and constitution, were also seized.
In court yesterday, Kuchata said they were going to leave fliers at the scene, which bore the name of his party and his name as the leader.
Magistrate Mujaya asked Kuchata if he believed that was the right way to protest, to which he replied, “Then, I thought it was proper only to later realise I was committing an offence after my arrest.”
Mujaya questioned, “You said you were representing Zimbabweans, did you ever think you would hurt some of the people who were there at the dairy?”
Kuchata said the information they had was that there would be no people during the night at the dairy.
Mujaya asked how they got the information, to which Kuchata replied: “I personally went there with Ngwenya and Makumbe for reconnaissance on January 20.”
Kuchata said corruption in Zimbabwe also drove him to commit the crime.
He alleged that former ZMDC chairman Godwills Masimirembwa, former ZBC boss Happison Muchechetere and former PSMAS CEO Cuthbert Dube committed some cases of corruption but were never tried or arrested.
Kuchata implicated Makumbe and Pfupa as the ones who made the petrol bombs using their military background and knowledge. Prosecutor General Johannes Tomana was arrested after releasing the two men from the charge before turning them state witnesses. Makumbe and Pfupa were rearrested on the treason charge.
Prosecutor Michael Reza had proposed 20 years effective for Kuchata.
“This charge is so serious that the legislature found it appropriate that the maximum sentence be life in jail,” he said. “An effective 20 years may save the interest of justice. If given a lenient sentence, the public can be like minded thinking they can go scot free.”