BULAWAYO – Chief Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni of Ntabazinduna says a warrant for his arrest issued by a court in Bulawayo is “politically motivated.”
Police said he had breached bail conditions set by the High Court when he was released on bail pending appeal against an 18-month prison sentence in August 2019.
But Chief Ndiweni has revealed that he obtained permission from police to travel to the United Kingdom for eye treatment, waiving a requirement to report once every Friday.
He said after his first trip to the UK, he returned to Zimbabwe for four months for the burial of his mother in March 2020 during which time he resumed his reporting duties until he had to leave again.
While away, the chief said he remained in regular contact with senior police officers at Mbembesi Police Station including Sergeant Canisious Chesango who last week secured a warrant for his arrest.
The timing of the arrest warrant was curious, Ndiweni said, coming after he made a visit to 10 Downing Street in London on December 2 to hand over a petition to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to back a campaign by Zimbabweans living outside their country to be allowed to vote in elections in 2023.
In a statement on Monday, Ndiweni said: “So after nearly two years of me being in the United Kingdom for treatment, some government political spin doctor suddenly realised that I’m not in Zimbabwe?
“The problem for this political spin doctor is that the whole government knew that I was not in Zimbabwe, the police knew and have been working with me the entire time, having allowed me to go for treatment in the United Kingdom in the first place.
“By the reaction of the government and their spin doctors, it is evident that they were not pleased that the Zimbabwe Diaspora Vote campaign to give voting rights to 5.5 million plus Zimbabwean citizens in the diaspora has reached this level.”
Ndiweni said he had a long-standing eye problem for which he has received treatment at a United Kingdom hospital for the last 20 years. His eyes deteriorated when he was held at Khami Prison following his 2019 arrest for allegedly destroying a hedge and kraal of a villager who had been banished from the village. The property destroyed was worth US$30, according to court documents.
Ndiweni said on the day he was convicted and sent to prison, he had undergone an eye operation. After a judge ordered his release on bail, saying that his appeal against the earlier conviction had prospects of success, Chief Ndiweni said he returned to the eye surgeon who gave him a referral to an eye hospital in London “where I have been treated for over 20 years having had many procedures and operations there.”
“I explained my condition to my legal team. I showed them the medical referral from the Bulawayo doctor to the hospital in the United Kingdom. They said that on such medical evidence, I was entitled to medical treatment, even with the bail conditions that were there,” Chief Ndiweni said.
“Because the situation was evident and historical, spanning over 20 years, they advised that I should go immediately for the treatment. When everything was in place for me to go to travel, I signed at the police station and also told them that I was going to the UK for treatment. The police also had sight of my medical referral and medical papers to that end.
“At the police station there was no electricity or a photocopying machine to copy these documents. The police said they would engage my lawyers. So authority was given by the police. Had additional permission been required, I would not have gone to the UK for treatment until such authority was given.”
Ndiweni said within two hours of arriving in the UK, he was “on the operating table.”
“The whole matter about the arrest warrant is about politics and not about law,” he maintains. “I will challenge the arrest warrant because it has no merit. I’m also keen for a ruling in my appeal to be delivered. It has been nearly two years now.”
Ndiweni said once he is discharged from his treatment, he will return to Zimbabwe “irrespective of whether the arrest warrant is there or not.”
He added: “I have work to do in Zimbabwe. I have continued to fulfil my responsibilities in Ntabazinduna. The village heads of Ntabazinduna are the first in the country to have Zoom meetings with their chief, thousands of miles away.
“There are so many developments that have happened for Ntabazinduna during this period including securing various partnerships that are bringing development for our clinics, schools, infrastructure, cash flow in the community, commercial agriculture and innovative solar energy solutions for the communities, student programmes and many other low hanging fruits that are about to be implemented.”
Bulawayo magistrate Maxwell Ncube signed the arrest warrant on Thursday last week at the request of Sergeant Chesango, the officer in charge of Mbembesi Police Station who accused the 58-year-old of breaching his bail conditions.
The warrant empowers police to “immediately upon sight thereof apprehend and bring the said accused person… before the magistrate.”