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Sikhala case haunts Mnangagwa govt

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was on Friday petitioned by prominent Zimbabweans who are demanding an end to the alleged persecution of two Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) legislators and activists.

The petition calling for the release of lawmakers Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole as well as 14 CCC activists from Nyatsime   was signed by several prominent Zimbabweans.

Sikhala and Sithole have been detained since June 14 charged with inciting violence following violent skirmishes at the funeral of slain CCC activist Moreblessing Ali.

They are charged alongside the 14 other CCC party activists.

The courts have on several occasions turned down their bail applications, with Sikhala being accused of being an unrepentant repeat offender capable of inciting violence.

In the petition initiated by the Southern Africa Political Economy Series (Sapes) Trust director Ibbo Mandaza and signed by 166 prominent Zimbabweans locally and abroad, the petitioners said Mnangagwa must intervene.

The petition was handed over to the Office of the President and Cabinet on Friday.

“We petition Your Excellency to bring to your consideration, a most unusual situation obtaining in the arrest and detention of Sikhala and Honourable Sithole, and 14 residents of Nyatsime, Chitungwiza following the violence of 14 June 2022 in Nyatsime. Our duty to Zimbabwe constrains us from maintaining silence,” the petition reads.

“The multiple denials of bail these two have endured, multiple times in the magistrates court and multiple times in the High Court, makes for an unusual and unprecedented situation.

“We cannot think of any prosecution in recent times where one has been denied bail for such numerous times, for offences of inciting public violence and obstruction of justice, which Honourable Sikhala is charged with, and inciting public violence, which Honourable Godfrey Sithole is charged with.

“Sikhala and Sithole have now spent 85 days in pre-trial incarceration at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.”

Efforts to get a comment from Office of the President chief secretary Misheck Sibanda were in vain as his mobile phone was not reachable.

Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba was not answering his calls yesterday.

The opposition, human rights defenders and critics say Sikhala, Sithole and the other 14 Nyatsime residents were facing political persecution.

Sikhala has said he was facing inhumane treatment in prison.

There were reports that he suffered ill health recently over suspected food poisoning.

“While we all noted the political violence that occurred in Nyatsime, it is curious that arrest and detention was targeted at members and perceived supporters of the political opposition,” the petition reads.

“No one associated with any other formation was arrested.

“When the actors in the justice system appear to act in ways wholly contrary to their sworn duty and oath to uphold and implement the law without fear or favour, inferences of external hands in work of the judiciary are bound to arise.

“The offences that Sikhala, Sithole and the 14 residents of Nyatsime are facing have not had this kind of treatment visited upon anyone charged with them in recent times.

“This treatment, we are aware, was commonplace during the times of the liberation struggle.”

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has previously denied allegations that the legislators are being targeted for belonging to the opposition.

Police did not arrest any Zanu PF member despite videos showing them engaging in violent activities during Ali’s funeral.  

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