"Mobile Phone Thief Cabinet Minister" Trial Starts, Chinotimba Testifies

This is Thamsanqa Mahlangu, the MDC-Tsvangirai Youth League Chairman and Deputy of of Youth in the Inclusive Government who stands accused of stealing a US$20 mobile phone that belongs to War Veterans leader Joseph Chinotimba in Harare during the Constitutional Conference. He was in court today, where Chinotimba was testifying

Harare, Zimbabwe, 27 August 2009

The trial of MDC Tsvangirai Deputy Minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu started in earnest at Magistrates Court along Rotten Row Road in Harare today.

Joseph Chinotimba, the self-styled "Commander of Land Invasions" and War Veterans Association leader, who is accusing the Deputy Minister of the theft, was the only witness to give evidence today at the court.

During his testimony, Chinotimba (known as Chinos around Zimbabwe) was asked why he left his phone unattended when he went to get food from the buffet table at the Harare hotel where he was attending a conference with the accused Deputy Minister.

Chinos replied that the people sitting with him at his table "were smartly dressed" and that, as a result, he had no reason to suspect that they "could be thieves".

Chinotimba, who has also since launched a civil suit against the Deputy Minister asking for millions of US dollars that he lost as a result of missed business opportunities that he failed to conduct without his mobile phone, revealed that the use of his contract line by Mahlangu's "accomplices" landed him with only a US$35 bill from the mobile phone network he uses.

The Deputy Minister is jointly charged with three other people, Malvern Chadamoyo, Geraldine Phiri and Patience Phiri. It is said that one of the two Phiri women is the girlfriend of the Deputy Minister and was caught in Hwange, the coal mining town after she used Chinotimba's sim card to make phone calls.

Chinotimba made no mention of his multi-milliondollar suit against the Deputy Minister during his evidence. The fact that he admits to having been prejudiced of only US$35 as a result of the use of his phone means that the civil suit will have a torrid time in the courts when it starts.

As I mentioned to you in the article entitled "Have You Noticed This Precedent?", another cellphone thief was sentenced two weeks ago here in Harare to 4 years in prison. If this precedent plays a part in the sentencing of the Deputy Minister, then it means that he will lose his seat in parliament and a by-election will have to be called.

Section 45 of the Zimbabwe constitution says any legislator who is sentenced to 6 months or more in prison immediately loses his seat and a by-election will have to be called.

Popular opinion in Zimbabwe is not in sympathy with the Deputy Minister, with most people convinced that he did steal the phone.

Mhahlangu handed the mobile phone to his boss, the Minister of Youth from ZANU PF, Saviour Kasukuwere, after the case had been reported to the police. He is Deputy to Kasukuwere in the inclusive government.

The trial continues tomorrow.


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