I did not threaten to burn hotel: Sten Zvorwadza tells court

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National Vendors Union leader Sten Zvorwadza yesterday refuted claims that he threatened to burn Rainbow Towers during a demonstration against Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s prolonged hotel stay.

Zvorwadza denied charges of threats to commit malicious damage to property when he appeared before Harare magistrate Tendai Rusinahama.

Zvorwadza’s lawyer Marufu Mandevere argued that his client was just enjoying breakfast when police officers pounced on him.

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However, Douglas Dembetembe the hotel’s concierge, who testified in court, claimed that Zvorwadza had conducted himself violently prompting the hotel management to engage police.

“ . . . police officers were called in to take the accused person out but he resisted and began shouting at them for failing to evict Mphoko from the hotel.

“He told them to leave him and when they got to the entrance he shut the doors and the officers left. Moments later, members of the riot police had to intervene and that was when he shouted that he would mobilise his members and have the hotel shut down or he would burn it.”

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Rainbow Tourism Group’s manager Trythings Mutyandasvika said two days before the protest he had seen Zvorwadza at the hotel.

“I called the police when I saw him on that particular day because he had visited us days before. I asked them to take him out and he began shouting, attracting the attention of my guests and other people in the hotel,” he said.

“He gave us an ultimatum to kick Mphoko out or have the hotel burnt.”

Mandevere queried why police were set on his client while he was having breakfast and had not committed any offence.

He said the charges against his client did not subsist because they could only be attributed to a person who communicates threats to another person.

Prosecutor Venancia Mutake alleged that on June 26 Zvorwadza was in the company of three suspected journalists and four other accomplices who are still at large.

The court heard that there is video footage which shows Zvorwadza seating in the foyer before he began shouting that he wanted to have breakfast.

Zvorwadza reportedly refused to leave the hotel and instead shouted while resisting arrest, saying “you police are always disturbing my peace and abusing me. I am eating (sic) my money but you are after me”.

It was further alleged that Zvorwadza closed the main entrance from inside and demanded that police officers leave the hotel to pave way for their demonstration.

The court heard that Zvorwadza fumed that Mphoko was supposed to check out of the five-star hotel because he was wasting tax payers’ money.

He allegedly queried why the vice president refused to stay in a $3 million house provided to him by government.

Zvorwadza reportedly gave the hotel an ultimatum of up to July 1 for the vice president to vacate the hotel or he would mobilise thousands of his members to demonstrate and declare Rainbow Towers hotel closed.

He is alleged to have threatened to tarnish the hotel’s reputation or even burning the place down by saying “kana kutopisa hotera yacho (even burning down the hotel)

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