Tanzania: Ping-Pong in Chadema MPs' Case Still Feverish

THE prosecution on Tuesday asked the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam to cancel bail granted to Kawe Member of Parliament (MP) Halima Mdee and Bunda Urban lawmaker Ester Bulaya for violating one of the conditions.

Principal State Attorney Faraja Nchimbi, Senior State Attorney Wankyo Simon as well as State Attorney Salim Msemo told Principal Resident Magistrate Thomas Simba that the duo left the country for South Africa without securing the court's permission as required by conditions of bail.

The trial attorneys alternatively requested the court to order the accused persons to surrender their passports to the court so that their movements could be controlled, a move that would block them from violating the set conditions and that they be strongly warned not to repeat the same mistake.

They stated that the reasons the two MPs with the main opposition party, Chadema, to justify their move lacked basis and the letter purportedly written by a doctor from Aga Khan Hospital, recommending referral treatments abroad was insufficient to warrant the accused to leave the country.

"It is clear that the accused persons were required to seek and obtain permission of the court before leaving the country. None of them applied for and was granted such permission. The decision by the accused to travel outside the country without permission is contempt of court," one of them submitted. Before presenting the prosecution's submissions, the court called upon the accused to give their respective accounts on why bail should not be cancelled.

It was Mdee who took the floor first and explained that the court was aware of the health complications she had been experiencing since 2018.

According to her, she had informed the court on the matter on November 25, 2019 and December 18, 2019 when attending another case, which is also presided over by the same magistrate and she categorically states that her absence would also affect the two cases she is facing.

The MP said no objection was given by the prosecution over her request, only that she was required to submit the recommendation letter to the court.

She explained that on January 6, 2020, her doctor wrote to the magistrate in charge after getting confirmation on when she would travel.

"Considering the nature of treatments, the doctor recommended Ester Bulaya to escort me to receive the treatments as she is aware of other operations I underwent previously. We served the letter and through my lawyers we believed the court was informed," she told the court.

When called to give her side of the coin, Bulaya almost gave similar sentiments, but she was quick to add that having been served with the letter in question, administrative arrangements would have been made for the trial magistrate to be aware of such developments.

Following the accounts given by the two accused persons, advocate John Mallya and Hekima Mwasipu requested the court to reject the application by the prosecution for failure to cite any supporting provision under the law.

They forcefully submitted that the accused persons gave detailed accounts, indicating that the permission required was sought orally and obtained as the prosecution had not raised any objection for them to travel abroad.

The defence attorneys also reminded the court on the decision given by the High Court on a similar incidence involving other accused persons that before cancelling bail, the court has to first deal with the sureties by forfeiting bond given, but the prosecution abandoned such procedure.

After hearing both parties, the magistrate said he would deliver the ruling on the matter on January 31, 2020. He adjourned the case to today when the court is expected to continue receiving defence evidence.

Other accused persons in the trial are National Chairman of Chadema Freeman Mbowe, the party's then Secretary General Vicent Mashinji, John Mnyika, the Deputy Secretary General (Mainland) and Salum Mwalimu, who is Deputy Secretary General (Zanzibar).

Others are Peter Msigwa (Member of Parliament (MP) for Iringa Urban, John Heche, the MP for Tarime Rural as well as the MP for Tarime Urban, Ester Matiko.

They are charged with 11 counts of 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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