Tanzania: Chadema MPs Defend Their Court Absence, Bail Comes for Verdict Today

KISUTU Resident Magistrate's court yesterday pinned three Chadema Members of Parliament (MPs) to account for their failure to attend the previous hearing session and remanded them until today when the status of their bail comes for determination.

During the hearing session, the prosecution pushed for cancellation of bail to all the MPs as the reasons given to support their failure to attend the November 15, 2019 court session were unsatisfactory.

However, Advocate Peter Kibatala countered that there was no any cogent reason warranting bail cancellation. Iringa Urban MP Peter Msigwa and his Tarime Rural, Kawe and Bunda Urban counterparts John Heche, Halima Mdee and Ester Bulaya were brought to the Dar es Salaam Court in the morning under tight security.

The MPs were under police escort from Oysterbay Police Station where they had been locked up having been arrested following an arrest warrant issued by Principal Resident Magistrate Thomas Simba over alleged bail jump in a seditious trial alongside five other senior officials of the opposition party.

Msigwa opened the floor, stating that on November 15, 2019 when the hearing session resumed arrived at the court premises late having experiencing a car break down on the way.

According to him, he had been accompanied by Heche in the same car that got an accident at Dar Free Market area. "We had to hire bodaboda to come to court.

We arrived at around 10.30am only to find the case has been adjourned and arrest warrant issued. We tried to come to you but we were told you had already left," the lawmaker told the magistrate.

Heche, on his part, almost gave similar explanation with that of Msigwa as they were together when coming to the court on the material day.

Mdee claimed that she started feeling unwell on her way to attend the hearing session.

The legislator told the court that she decided to go to a nearby hospital for medical attention first before coming to court and she had called her sureties and directed them to proceed to the court to explain her circumstances.

As was the case for Msigwa and Heche, the Kawe MP also arrived at the court premises late and having her sureties failed to meet with the magistrate and upon learning about the arrest warrant, she decided to surrender to the police station on the next day where she was locked up.

On her part, Bulaya explained that on the material day she did not attend the hearing session because she was in Singida attending burial ceremony of her close relatives.

She called her sureties and directed them to come to court to report the reason for her none appearance Indeed, sureties for Mdee and Bulaya, who were also summoned to appear in yesterday session, admitted to have been instructed by the two suspects to come and explain the obstacles they had encountered.

They told the court in separate audiences that on November 15, 2019 they arrived at the court premises early in the morning.

They said that before the court session, they went to the toilet. However, after relieving themselves they noted the case had already been adjourned.

According to them, their efforts to meet the magistrate to explain what had happened proved futile. It was at that point the prosecution, led by Principal State Attorneys Faraja Nchimbi asked the court to cancel the bail granted to the four MPs.

The prosecution team also comprising Principal State Attorneys Joseph Pande, Senior State Attorney Wankyo Simon and State Attorneys Salim Msemo and Jacqueline Nyantori forcefully submitted that all the four breached the bail conditions as they were not in court on November 15, 2019 as ordered.

On that day, the party's National Chairman Freeman Mbowe, who was in court, was required to continue giving his defence testimony through cross-examination by the prosecution.

However, the magistrate was forced to adjourn the proceedings to yesterday.

Apart from Mbowe, Msigwa, Heche, Mdee and Bulaya, other accused who attended the previous session were the party's Secretary General Vicent Mashinji, John Mnyika, Deputy Secretary General (Mainland), Salum Mwalimu, Deputy Secretary General (Zanzibar) and Tarime Urban MP, Ester Matiko.

They are charged with 13 counts of with conspiracy to commit offences, unlawful assembly, rioting after proclamation, raising discontent and ill-will for unlawful purposes, sedition and inciting commission of offences.

The charges are alleged to have been committed between February 1 and 16, 2018 in the city.

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