23 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Zimrights Officially Charged in Fraud Case

Police on Wednesday formally laid charges against ZimRights, as more details emerged in the fraud case that led to the arrest of the group's director Okay Machisa and his deputy.

Board member Nunurai Jena signed a "warned and cautioned statement", on behalf of ZimRights, after he reported to the police station with his lawyer Selby Hwacha.

Jena told SW Radio Africa shortly afterwards that the organisation was charged with fraud and forgery, the same charges brought against their two detained employees.

Jena said, "They are saying because our employees Leo Chamahwinya and Okay Machisa are being charged with the same offence, in essence they are acting with the blessings of the board."

The police allege that ZimRights was involved in an illegal voter registration exercise, but the organization denies participating in illegal activities.

According to Jena, the police apprehended two white foreigners who initially were arrested for having fake visas to Zimbabwe. Upon questioning the foreigners said they received the fake documents through a Mr. Bamu, who is not a member of ZimRights.

As a follow-up the police searched Bamu's premises and found some stamps and a voter registration document. Bamu implicated another unidentified person, at whose home the police found 990 voter registration slips.

Jena said upon questioning by the police, the unidentified man implicated Dorcas Shereni, the ZimRights chairperson for Highfields local chapter. It is Shereni who allegedly claimed the voter registration slips are filled out and taken to Leo at the ZimRights offices.

Jena said it was this link to Chamahwinya that also led to Machisa, the two Zimrights executives being in detention.

He said the police are claiming that the employees were given the mandate by the organization, but he insists the board disassociates itself from any alleged criminal activities.

Machisa's lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said it is "extremely difficult" to know what the exact allegations against her client and the organization are as they have been implicated by third parties, "some of whom they did not know and some of whom have no connection with ZimRights".

Mtetwa said, none of these documents were found at the ZimRights premises.

She added that the individuals who have implicated her client are unreliable as they were found in possession of other fake documents, including passports, birth certificates, and visas for other countries.

Commenting on reports that suggested Shereni fingered the ZimRights employees, Mtetwa said she has not seen any statements showing this and Shereni is not an employee of ZimRights but just a member.

The human rights lawyer said the entire case is speculative as the state has so far failed to show the direct involvement of her client.

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