EIGHT days after serving a 595- day pre-trial detention at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, veteran opposition politician Job Sikhala was earlier this week convicted of publishing falsehoods, a charge which practically ceased to exist a long time ago.
He becomes the second person to be convicted for committing this phantom offence in a year.
Sikhala was arrested and separately charged of communicating or publishing false statements with journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and the then spokesperson of MDC-Alliance, Fadzayi Mahere for posting on social media that police officers had killed a baby during their heavyhanded enforcement of Covid-19 restrictions.
Chin’ono was acquitted of the charge while Mahere was convicted. The judge who acquitted Chin’ono said there was no such offence as publishing falsehoods.
Paragraph 4 of the order read , “It is declared that section 31 (A) (iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform ) Act Chapter [9:23] is no longer part of Zimbabwean law.
“It is further declared that there is no offence called publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State under Zimbabwean Law,” read the order.
In light of Chin’ono’s judgment from a higher court, Mahere’s appeal against the conviction will be heard on 28 February 2024 while Sikhala awaits sentencing.
At the peak of Covid-19 restrictions, police officers forcefully dispersed people at an illegal bus termini in Harare and, in the process, hit a child who was strapped to her mother’s back.
People in the video could be heard saying the child had died. The trio posted on their social media accounts that the child had died and were apprehended by police for doing so.
While the conviction was expected, with the way the judiciary has been at the centre of persecution of dissenting voices, Chin’ono and Mahere criticised the conviction. In a post on X, Mahere said the conviction was unfortunate.
“Tragic outcome this,” she posted. Chin’ono, on the other hand said, the judiciary had become shameless.
“Job Sikhala has been convicted today using a law that does not exist. See below a High Court ruling that clearly stated that such a law doesn’t exist in our constitution. However, because the Zimbabwean judiciary is captured and pliant to politicians, they violate their own constitution and laws! Where in the world does a lower court override a higher court on a ruling? This is continued political persecution of Job Sikhala comically using laws that don’t exist! This is shameful!!!!,” he posted.
This is Sikhala’s second conviction since he became a politician. The third one, for obstruction of justice, was overturned by the High Court.