The trial of a Zanu PF activist accused of circulating messages instigating vice president Constantino Chiwenga to stage a coup against President Emmerson Mnangagwa suffered a false start on Monday after State witnesses failed to show up in court.
Goodman Tamuona Musariri, a former district chairman for the ruling party in Mashonaland Central, was arrested in 2020 and charged with “undermining the authority” of Mnangagwa after allegedly posting the messages on WhatsApp groups he founded.
A Bindura magistrate punted his trial date to May 12 so witnesses can be located, said Mutape Paidamoyo Saurombe, the accused’s attorney from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).
The lawyers’ group tweeted that Musariri is “accused of circulating messages on three WhatsApp groups endorsing vice president Chiwenga to take over leadership of Zanu PF party as President Mnangagwa lacks authority and drive to lead the ruling party and Zimbabwe.”
“Musariri posted messages on three WhatsApp groups namely ‘People’s General Xi-wenga’, ‘Zanu PF Mash Central Build Up’, and ‘Legacy of our struggle’ of which he is the administrator,” the ZLHR said.
The accused, who says he joined Zanu PF at the young age of 15 in 1995, says he later dropped his push for a Chiwenga presidency and decided to take on Mnangagwa himself, resulting in his arrest.
“I believe my arrest was politically-driven following my intention to challenge Mnangagwa’s ascendancy to power,” Musariri told the NewsDay in December.
He added: “I became a fan of the Operation Restore Legacy of November 2017, which was led by General Chiwenga and the army which I believed was going to end up with the formation of much-awaited transitional authority led by Chiwenga himself. I find Mnangagwa’s ascendancy through the unsanctioned Zanu PF central committee caucus of November 19 2017 unlawful, null and void.”
Human rights activists say prosecutions of people accused of undermining Mnangagwa’s authority are on the increase, and that the situation will likely worsen as Zimbabwe draws closer to the 2023 general elections.