Zimbabwean Politician Convicted of Assaulting Russian Investor

Tendai Biti, a prominent opposition leader and lawyer, found guilty of verbally and physically attacking Tatiana Aleshina in 2020

by Victor Adetimilehin

A Zimbabwean court has convicted Tendai Biti, a former finance minister and opposition leader, of assaulting a Russian investor in a property dispute.

Biti, who is also a prominent lawyer, was found guilty on Tuesday after a lengthy trial during which he denied the allegations and argued that the charge against him did not form a criminal offense.

The court heard that Biti verbally and physically attacked Tatiana Aleshina, a Russian national and investor, at the Harare Magistrates Court in 2020, where they were involved in a legal battle over a property owned by one of Biti’s clients.

Biti admitted calling Aleshina a “stupid idiot”, but maintained that there was no physical confrontation. He also claimed that he was being persecuted for his political activism and challenged the jurisdiction and impartiality of the court.

However, the presiding magistrate rejected Biti’s arguments and said that people cannot be allowed to call each other “idiots” and go scot-free. He also said that the evidence of the state witnesses, including a doctor who examined Aleshina, was credible and consistent.

“The state has managed to prove that the accused uttered the words which the accused confirmed himself. All the witnesses are credible witnesses and the court has no reason to doubt their testimonies. The evidence of all the state witnesses cannot be said to be worthless as alleged by the accused. For those reasons, I find the accused person guilty,” the magistrate said.

A History of Controversy

Biti, who is the vice president of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A), has a history of controversy and clashes with the authorities.

He served as the finance minister in a power-sharing government between 2009 and 2013, during which he was credited with stabilizing the economy and introducing a multi-currency system.

He later broke away from the MDC-A and formed his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which later rejoined the MDC-A ahead of the 2018 elections.

Biti was one of the most vocal critics of the 2018 elections, which he claimed were rigged in favor of the ruling party, ZANU-PF, and its leader, President Emmerson Mnangagwa. He was arrested and charged with inciting violence and illegally announcing election results but was later acquitted by the High Court.

He has also faced several other charges, including treason, subversion, and corruption, which he has dismissed as politically motivated.

A Strained Relationship

The conviction of Biti comes at a time when the relationship between Zimbabwe and Russia is strained over various issues.

Russia, which has been a longtime ally of Zimbabwe, has been accused of meddling in the country’s politics and supporting the military coup that ousted former President Robert Mugabe in 2017.

Russia has also been involved in several mining and energy projects in Zimbabwe, some of which have been marred by allegations of corruption, environmental damage, and human rights violations. Aleshina, the complainant in the assault case, is the director of Augur Investments, a company that has been embroiled in a dispute with the Harare City Council over a multi-million dollar property development project.

The project, which was initiated in 2008, was meant to construct a new airport road, residential and commercial buildings, and a shopping mall, but has been stalled by legal challenges and accusations of fraud.

Aleshina has accused Biti and his client, Ken Sharpe, of trying to sabotage the project and take over the land. She has also claimed that Biti wanted to attack her and sought refuge at the Russian embassy.

Biti, on the other hand, has accused Aleshina and her company of being part of a “mafia” that is looting the country’s resources and violating the law.

However, regardless of the outcome, Biti has said that he will not be deterred from pursuing his political and legal career.

He has also said that he hope that the case will pave the way for a better relationship between Zimbabwe and Russia, and a peaceful resolution of the property dispute.


Source: New Zimbabwe

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