Zanu PF elites perfect the catch-and-release strategy
THE release of Zanu PF’s Gokwe Nembudziya legislator Justice Mayor Wadyajena on grounds that the state was not ready for trial four months after arrest is proof of double standards and that the government is using the courts to silence dissent, given Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala has clocked seven months in prison without trial, Norton legislator Temba Mliswa has said.
Mliswa took to Twitter after the ruling, saying the rich and ruling party officials were above the law. The tweet attracted more than 1 000 likes and was viewed by over 10 000 people.
“Some of these things are disheartening. How does the state fail to amass evidence where US$5 million has been swindled? It’s now clear jail is for the poor and the opposition!!,” he tweeted.
“It’s clear where the failure is coming from. US$5 million swindled from a state enterprise and the state’s case fails for lack of evidence! This is a reflection of the absence of political will to fight corruption.”
His sentiments were echoed by Zimbabwe Divine Destiny cleric, Bishop Ancelimo Magaya, who described Wadyajena’s reprieve while Sikhala and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono remains on remand for allegedly inciting public violence as a mockery of the criminal justice system.
“The removal of Wadyajena from remand whilst Sikhala continues suffering in prison and the likes of Hopewell still on remand is a mockery on our justice system. Christians choosing not to see this evil are guilty of strengthening the hands of evildoers — according to scriptures,” he tweeted.
Wadyajena was arrested for using US$5 million meant for procurement of bale ties for the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe after allegedly diverting the funds to buy a fleet of trucks for his company, Mayor Logistics.
His co-accused, Cottco bosses Maxmore Njanji and Pius Makunike, as well as Chiedza Danha and Fortunate Molai, were also released. On removing Wadyajena from remand, Harare magistrate Taurai Manuwere said the accused persons had been placed on remand to allow the state to conclude investigations but it had failed to do so four months later.
The same magistrate denied Job Sikhala bail in October 2022, four months after the lawmaker was arrested at his home. At the time, he said the passage of time was not grounds to grant the accused bail. The state was saying the fact that he had spent four months in jail pre-trial is not enough grounds to grant him bail.
“It’s not the mere passage of time that warrants granting bail to an accused person,” the prosecutor argued. “Investigations are complete and applicant has been furnished with trial date and state papers. Clearly, there has been progress and nothing was placed on record that risk of absconding has been averted so the accused must remain in custody,” argued Lancelot Mutsokoti, appearing for the state.
Although this was the state’s argument in October 2022, trial is yet to begin for the embattled lawmaker.
Wadyajena was granted bail two days after he was arrested. He has applied for bail several times in the past seven months, but it has been denied. Sikhala has been arrested almost 70 times since he joined politics in 1999 but has never been convicted of any of the charges levelled against him.
He was arrested for inciting public violence in June 2022, and was co-accused with Chitungwiza North MP Godfrey Sithole. The latter has since been granted bail.
Other dissenting voices challenging the current leadership in the ruling Zanu PF such as Sybeth Musengezi have been on remand for close to a year now and earlier this week the court further remanded him to a date in March, citing that the prosecutor was not available.
Godfrey Tsenengamu was arrested after naming and shaming corrupt leaders in the party and has been on remand since his arrest in October 2020.