THE coordinator of the Job Sikhala solidarity campaign, Obert Masaraure, says the movement will continue operating despite the opposition stalwart’s release from 595 days in pre-trial detention.
Masaraure says the Free Job Sikhala Solidarity Movement will continue operating so as to provide solidarity for all Zimbabweans facing repression amid a worsening socio-economic crisis.
However, he says the campaign will not transition to a political party.
This week, Sikhala was released from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison after spending 595 days in prison, since his arrest on 14 June 2022 while representing slain Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) activist, Moreblessing Ali.
In May last year, Sikhala was convicted, after spending almost a year in prison following his arrest and was slapped with a suspended six-month custodial sentence and a US$600 fine.
He remained in custody for the prolonged period, with the state arguing he had outstanding cases.
Even though the Job Sikhala Solidarity Movement was set up to push for his release, coordinator Masaraure said its work will continue to push for the socio-economic and political rights of oppressed Zimbabweans.
“The movement is actually escalating. The movement is now a solidarity movement for all Zimbabweans. It will offer solidarity for all Zimbabweans. It will give all Zimbabweans solidarity, all those who are failing to access education, all those who are failing to access healthcare among others,” Masaraure told The NewsHawks.
“The workload is now immense. We need to step up our work, harness our work and move forth. We are not turning back. The Job Sikhala Solidarity Campaign seeks to unite all citizens to push back against judicial capture. To demand freedom for all political prisoners. The campaign appreciates that the judiciary is at the centre of ensuring that citizens enjoy their rights, including socio-economic rights.”
Masaraure said the campaign will also push for economic rights, with most Zimbabweans now being driven into poverty.
Last year, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube presented the 2024 National Budget statement which proposed the widening of the revenue base through several taxes and levies targeting both the rich and the poor.
Immediately after announcing the new tax regime, Ncube faced enormous disparagement, with critics saying the fiscal statement was not well-thought-out.
“Today citizens are carrying an unbearable tax burden because people are barred from protesting. The judiciary has been deployed to unjustly cage all those who reject government’s flawed policies. Zimbabwe’s elections are perennially rigged, because the judiciary is not a fair arbiter,” Masaraure said.
“Our judiciary is clearly bidding for the ruling Zanu PF party. All electoral disputes brought to court have seen Zanu PF emerging victorious. The Job Sikhala Solidarity Campaign therefore becomes an important cog in the fight for the restoration of the liberation promise of justice, freedom and equality.”
Masaraure says the campaign is an important cog in the fight for the restoration of the liberation promise of justice, freedom and equality. He said the solidarity campaign will however not transform into a political party.
“Zimbabwe has more than enough political parties, what is lacking is a free and fair playing field. The movement will come in to assist different political parties to enjoy a level playing field.
“We have no appetite to form an opposition party, opposition parties are useless if they have no potential of capturing state power,” he told The NewsHawks.
Masaraure says the Job Sikhala Solidarity Movement already has ambassadors who will spearhead the campaign in their respective fields, while being mandated to mobilise different international players to apply diplomatic pressure on Harare.
The government has been under fire for persecuting opposition members.
For instance, leader of the opposition Transform Zimbabwe Jacob Ngarivhume was released from prison in December following his conviction in April last year on accusations of inciting violence using his X handle. A bid to convene the 31 July 2020 anti-corruption protests failed after they were violently quashed by security forces.
Ngarivhume was slapped with a 48-month sentence, with 12 months suspended. He was released eight months after his High Court appeal was successful.
Award-winning novelist and activist Tsitsi Dangarembga was also acquitted in May last year after being arrested for protesting in the empty streets of Harare during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.
In April last year, the government resuscitated the prosecution of human rights activist Rashid Mahiya on charges of attempting to overthrow the Mnangagwa government, four years after he was initially accused.
Mahiya, the executive director of Heal Zimbabwe civil society organisation, was arrested in 2019 alongside several pro-democracy campaigners, trade unionists, civil society and opposition legislators after countrywide demonstrations against fuel price hikes.
The state resuscitated his case, accusing him of unlawfully convening a meeting at Wild Geese Conference Centre in Harare’s Pomona suburb between 3 December and 6 December 2018 which the National Prosecuting Authority says was aimed at toppling Mnangagwa.