Bennett Trial: State Witness Impeached

Peter Michael Hitschmann is the State key witness in the trial of MDC treasurer general Roy Bennett who is facing charges of terrorism.  

The State, represented by Attorney general Johannes Tomana, called in Hitschmann to testify in the matter when the trial resumed on Tuesday at the High Court and the Mutare arms dealer and former policeman distanced himself from a statement he made that implicates Bennett to the charges of terrorism.

Tomana had presented the statement before the court and wanted to prove that the testimony that Hitschmann was giving was a departure from the statement he made when he was arrested in 2006 at Adams Barracks in Mutare.

“We are not presenting these statements as evidence but we want to prove to this honourable court that Hitschmann is proving to be a favourable witness to the accused (Bennett). What we want to prove is the existence of the statements and whether the witness was aware of them,” said Tomana.

The State also wanted to treat Hitschmann as an accomplice witness. However defence lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa objected to the statements being brought to court as evidence arguing that it was obtained “under traumatic and unfriendly” circumstances.

Mtetwa accused the State of having flouted the process of impeachment arguing that it must only proceed on terms of a statement from a witness and not a confession during a separate trial.“The state did not seek to suggest that he was departing from his own evidence at his (Hitschmann) own trial. Again he has since appealed at the Supreme Court and those statements will have a bearing on that application,” said Mtetwa.

She said the State must not rely on a statement that was obtained under military custody.

“The AG is being inconsistent with his own evidence. He must clearly tell this court which statement he would like to rely on. We are aware that the statements were not even used at the witness’ own trial,” she said.

Trust Maanda, who is also part of the defence team, told journalists that Hitschmann was only being honest and not being hostile to anyone.

“He is just saying what he said at his own trial but the State maintains that he is a compellable witness. If he is successfully impeached the State will now have to cross examine him using the evidence which they have. The bone of contention is now on a matter of procedure on whether he should be impeached or not,” said Maanda.

Justice Chinembiri Bhunu adjourned the matter to Wednesday where he will make his ruling on impeachment.

Hitschmann who worked for the Zimbabwe republic Police from 1987 until 2001 disowned some of the weapons among them six oozes that are on display as evidence that was recovered from his house in Mutare.

He said he received some of the weapons from white commercial farmers who were living the country and he would facilitate in getting the weapons to the police using his experience from the force.

“I handed over all the unregistered weapons to the Police Provincial Armory in Manicaland of which I obtained issue vouchers.  I have excluded five oozes bearing the Cuban military marks and one that has a Rhodesian Army serial number. The two oozes that I had in my possession bore normal serial numbers and not military insignia,” said Hitschmann during his testimony.

Hitschmann also distanced himself from the emails that purport to have been authored by him to Bennett as the planned the insurgencies and banditry activities.