Jailed Sikhala writes emotional letter to African Union on persecution
INCARCERATED member of Parliament for Zengeza West, Job Sikhala, has written to the African Union, regional bodies and international human rights organisations about the deteriorating political situation and collapse in rule of law in Zimbabwe.
Sikhala’s nine-page letter is addressed to the African Union, Southern African Development Community, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. He bemoans political persecution, citing his prolonged pre-trial detention and repeated denial of bail.
“The world cannot remain silent when the people of Zimbabwe are under siege. There is total breakdown of laws in Zimbabwe that people are being thrown into prison without fair hearing. The right to a fair trial is a universal concept of law and the pillar in international law. The people of Zimbabwe are denied the right to a fair trial. We are under political persecution passed as trials,” he wrote.
Sikhala has been detained at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison for more than 60 days, awaiting trial on charges of inciting violence and obstructing justice.
He was arrested on 14 June 2022, alongside Chitungwiza North MP Godfrey Sithole and 14 others from Nyatsime for demanding justice for slain Citizens’ Coalition for Change activist Moreblessing Ali. Ali is yet to be buried because her distraught family is demanding that Sikhala, who is the family lawyer, be released from prison first.
Ali’s family says it has been hounded away from its Chitungwiza home by Zanu PF thugs.
“Now is the time for the world to speak against the excesses of the Zimbabwe government against its citizens,” Sikhala said.
He is appealing for help as his two bids for freedom have hit a snag, with the courts saying granting him bail is risky as he is likely to incite the public to commit public violence. He was denied bail by Harare magistrate Gibson Mandaza and High Court judge Justice Lucy Mungwari in the case in which he is accused of inciting public violence. The court felt that releasing him and his co-accused is risky as the duo is likely to incite violence.
Magistrate Stanford Mambanje also denied Sikhala bail in the case in which the lawmaker is accused of obstruction.
He is yet to get a ruling on his third bid for bail from the Harare magistrates’ court on the latest charges.
The lawmaker had engaged international lawyers Amsterdam & Partners from London and New York to represent him in the matter, but they were barred from representing him in the country.
Sikhala has a running case for allegedly inciting public violence by calling for the 31 July 2020 protests.
In the emotional letter, Sikhala accuses President Emmerson Mnangagwa of influencing judicial decisions against political opponents unlike his predecessor Robert Mugabe.
“The late former President, Robert Mugabe’s government arrested me 60 times until the time of his downfall. Despite the 60 arrests I was aquitted of all politically motivated charges against me. This was so because, Robert Mugabe was not one to interfere with criminal justice system neither did he create funny courts to persecute opponents. The judiciary in the criminal justice system operated independent of the Executive.
Furthermore Mugabe had no command structure to dictate what judicial officers must do against his opponents,” he wrote.
Sikhala says this meddling in judicial affairs is part of Mnangagwa’s plan to silence dissenters.
“My current two manufactured charges by the government are before this court, a development that has eroded public confidence in the criminal justice system in Zimbabwe, the rule of law has totally broken down here in Zimbabwe to the extent that an accused person in North Korea will expect to get justice from its courts than an accused person in Zimbabwe,” he wrote.
The outspoken MP accused Mnangagwa of crushing critics, making him a more vicious dictator than his predecessor.
“Since the overthrow of the late President Robert Mugabe in 2017, Zimbabwe has been turned into a nightmare for opposition political persons. More than 20 people have been arrested and charged with treason. This is three times more than all persons charged with the same offence in Mugabe’s more than 37 years of reign. At the present more than 100 leaders of opposition are facing various charges in the government’s courts of law,”
“What makes even more bizarre is that all senior opposition political leaders, prominent journalists, civil society leaders, lawyers regarded as critics of government and social activists are being dragged to the specialised court, called the Anti-Corruption Court,” he added.
Sikhala and Sithole will submit a fresh bail application at the High Court on 15 August.