MDC-T deputy national chairperson Morgen Komichi was yesterday found guilty of criminally obtaining a Zimbabwe Electoral Commission ballot paper which he marked, sealed and re-opened in a bid to cast aspersions on the electoral body to abet his party’s bid to discredit the harmonised elections.
Komichi was sentenced to perform 350 hours of community service at Marbelreign clinic by magistrate Mr Tendai Mahwe who ruled that he had committed fraud and contravened the Electoral Act.
The MDC-T has been battling to discredit the harmonised elections, which it lost dismally to Zanu-PF, and even approached various courts but failed to provide evidence to back its claims of electoral fraud.
Komichi’s case, was thus largely seen as an attempt to make a case for the alleged rigging.
Mr Mahwe sentenced Komichi to 12 months in prison on fraud charges and six months for contravening the Electoral Act Chapter 2:13, to make it 18 months in prison.
The magistrate, however, set aside eight months for five years on condition Komichi does not commit an offence involving dishonesty and contravening the electoral laws.
Mr Mahwe suspended the remaining 10 months on condition Komichi performs the 350 hours of community service beginning on Monday next week.
In passing sentence, Mr Mahwe considered that Komichi’s actions had the potential for far reaching consequences.
Komichi’s case crumbled after he promised to call Michael Phiri, whom he said had given him the ballot papers, as a witness, but the man never appeared.
This left the court convinced that he had acted on his own with the intention to discredit ZEC and cause confusion with regards to the electoral body’s handling of elections.
“The offence was well calculated to mislead the nation and make ZEC believe that it was chaotic in its running of elections,” said Mr Mahwe. “He (Komichi) was insinuating that ZEC threw away ballot papers cast in favour of the MDC-T.
“Michael Phiri remained a mystery yet the court expected Komichi to call him as a witness. Komichi obtained the ballot papers criminally with the help of others which he filled with incoherent information, potential prejudice was caused to ZEC.”
Mr Mahwe said it was apparent that the normal pen used in marking the ballot papers was not the special one which ZEC used to fill them.
“The envelop was cut from the top instead of the bottom where it is marked, ‘cut here’. There was no presiding officer’s mark and it turned out that Constable Mugove Chiginya did not vote,” he said.
“This was a grand plan to prove that ZEC was in shambles.”
Komichi’s lawyer Mr Alec Muchadehama made an application for the suspension of the community service pending a High Court appeal against the conviction and sentence.
“I am seeking a suspension of the sentence because I have instructions to lodge an appeal at the High Court against the conviction and sentence,” he said.
“This court misdirected itself in the manner it has treated the evidence of the State.”
Mr Mahwe will make a ruling on the application today.
In mitigation, Mr Muchadehama told the court that Komichi should not be made a sacrificial lamb at the expense of others whom the court found had connived with Komichi to commit the offence.
“ZEC was culpable and negligent in the manner they were keeping the material in their custody and Komichi must not be punished for their negligence,” he said.
“There might have been similar papers at HICC, but no proper investigation was made to determine the existence of the papers. Both ZEC and the police acted at the spare of the moment and become overzealous, apprehending the accused.”
Mr Michael Mugabe appeared for the State.
Komichi was arrested on July 28 for misrepresenting to ZEC that he “picked up” from a dust bin, a sealed tamper-proof envelope with a special vote ballot paper at the Harare International Conference Centre.
He approached ZEC deputy director of public relations Mr Tendai Pamire and told him that an unnamed person informed him that they had picked the envelope from a dustbin at the HICC where the special vote was being processed.
Komichi said he opened it out of curiosity and discovered that there were ballot papers cast by the police in favour of MDC-T by Cst Chiginya.
ZEC officials reported the matter to the police and investigations showed that Cst Chiginya had failed to vote in the special voting exercise as his name had not been called out by the presiding officer.