OPPOSITION Citizens’ Coalition for Change president Nelson Chamisa has revealed that he has written to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to facilitate the release of incarcerated Zengeza West legislator Job Sikhala.
Addressing a Press briefing in Harare on Thursday, Chamisa said he told Mnangagwa that Sikhala’s continued incarceration has tarnished the image of the country.
“I have even made efforts to write severally to Mr Mnangagwa to say deal with this Sikhala issue, it is embarrassing us internationally and nationally. He has chosen not to respond. But I have written to him. I wrote to him private conversations indicating to him what the issues are, but he did not respond,” said Chamisa.
Sikhala has been in pre-trial detention for over 250 days after he was arrested on 14 June 2022 for allegedly inciting public violence and obstructing justice.
He has applied for bail more than eight times at both the High Court and in the lower courts, but has been repeatedly denied bail.
Solidarity for him has dwindled at the courts, with his latest court appearance showing that only his family and lawyers are still pitching up.
Chamisa, who has been blocked from visiting Sikhala at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, said he last saw Sikhala at the courts.
“I have managed to access and visit Sikhala by court. They have refused that I visit him at remand prison, but where there is a will there is akways a way. I am the leader, I am the father; you must take care of your children. Mr Sikhala must be taken care of,” he said.
Chamisa also took the opportunity to address a widespread perception that he has deserted Sikhala in his hour of need.
“I have heard people say that oh Mr. Chamisa is neglecting Sikhala, he is neglecting people. You don’t blame the
victim, the perpertrator is there. My wallet has been stolen, instead of blaming me for being stupid, why don’t we together deal with this thief? That’s where the problem is, do not blame the victim, don’t victimise the victim. I am equally as concerned and as worried,” he said.
Chamisa says he is worried that Sikhala is not present in the discourse of party politics now.
“He is a foot soldier and I would want him to be in the battalion for change. He is not there. Why is he not there? Because he has been incarcerated. Why has he been incarcerate? Because of trumped-up charges,” he said.
Some people who engage Chamisa on social media ask him why he is not giving the greenlight for protests, but the opposition leader says he is not going to walk into such a predictable trap.
“They were trying to trigger a certain line of events, but we are wiser. We do not fall for their tricks,” said Chamisa.
In previous times, when Sikhala has been arrested and appeared in court, there have been protests or shows of mass solidarity.
This explains why anti-riot police had become a permanent fixture whenever Sikhala had a court session in the past nine months.
Chamisa claims there is an expectation by government officials for him to go and cut deals for Sikhala’s release.
“Sikhala is worried. The last time I engaged him he was telling me about how they tried to say no it’s your leader who is refusing to talk to us. If he talks to us, then we can deal with your release. That’s what he told me,” said Chamisa.
When Sikhala had spent 85 days in prison and lodged bail applications in vain, constitutional lawyer and National Constitutional Assembly president Lovemore Madhuku advised that the legal route may not be the best way out for Sikhala. Madhuku said a political solution would have better prospects of success.
“The legal route seems to have failed in the sense that the courts have made it clear that they have not found any basis for releasing him on bail for now, that is what I have been following. Which means that as far as I am concerned the court wants him to stand trial to say go to your trial after your trial you will either be aquitted in which case you will obviously walk out of remand or you are convicted and so on. I think that the best solution for these people is a political solution. As long as their party is arrogant and doing what it is doing then it is completely failing, I’m sure they are in a wrong political party,” said Madhuku.
260 days later — and counting — trial is yet to begin for Sikhala and he is still behind bars.