Fungai Lupande Senior Court Reporter
Zimbabwe People’s Front political party president Owen Kuchata, who is serving a nine-year jail term for attempting to petrol-bomb the former First Family’s Alpha Omega Dairy Farm in Mazowe, has claimed he was not advised of his right to legal representation at trial.
Kuchata, who was sentenced in 2016, said his plea of guilty was not made freely and voluntarily. He is applying at the High Court for review of proceedings made by Harare magistrate Mr Hoseah Mujaya.
In a handwritten application from his prison cell, Kuchata wants the High Court to nullify Mr Mujaya’s decision of February 9, 2016 for not advising him of his right to legal representation.
“The decision was unreasonable and constitutes an unfair trial,” he said.
“The entire proceedings in CRB 1838/16 should be set aside.”
Kuchata told the High Court that the lower court committed a gross irregularity by not advising him of his right to legal representation during trial. “The plea of guilty I made was not made freely and voluntarily,” he said.
“When I was in court, the man who had brutally assaulted me and instructed me to admit to the charges was sitting in the gallery.
“I believe the man was a State agent and he was part of officers who had heavily assaulted and tortured me. The magistrate even asked this man if he was from the media.
“If the magistrate had advised me of my constitutional right to a lawyer before pleading, I would have sought the services of one.”
Kuchata said his family was being threatened to force him to admit to the charges.
During his trial, Kuchata pleaded guilty to treason and said corruption in Zimbabwe drove him to commit the offence.
He asked for forgiveness and said he will never repeat the offence. Kuchata said he committed the offence because people’s houses were being demolished and by bombing the late former President Mugabe’s property, he wanted him to see how it felt to have a property destroyed.
Kuchata and his accomplices went to the former First Family’s rural home in Zvimba on January 1, 2016, where they carried out reconnaissance, identifying suitable vulnerable points for sabotage. Police received a tip-off that the team was planning to bomb Alpha Omega Dairy’s processing plant and a tuckshop during the night. Acting on the tip-off, the police proceeded to the farm and laid an ambush about 100 metres from their target.