PROMINENT human rights lawyer Musa Kika (pictured) says Zimbabwe’s failure to ratify international protocols on human rights has worsened the plight of jailed political activists and human rights defenders.
This comes after civic society has raised concern over the continued prosecution of perceived opponents of President Emmerson Mnangagwa ahead of the 23 August general elections.
Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) legislator Job Sikhala was in May this year convicted, almost a year after his arrest, and slapped with a suspended six-month custodial sentence and a US$600 fine. Sikhala was however not released from custody, despite spending over 300 days in prison, with the state arguing he has outstanding cases. On 14 June 2023, Job Sikhala clocked exactly one year in jail.
The High Court in June also dismissed opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume’s application for bail pending appeal against both conviction and sentencing following his arrest in May 2023 for leading and organising the 31 July 2020 protests.
He was convicted by Harare magistrate Feresi Chakanyuka and has been sentenced to 48 months’ imprisonment, with 12 months suspended.
This week, Kika said Zimbabwe is tightening bolts to ensure the incarceration of political opponents.
“Zimbabwe as a country generally does not like accountability internationally and regional. Zimbabwe was the reason why the Sadc Tribunal was disbanded in the early 2000s. So the tribunal is no longer there. We now have what we call the Sadc administrative tribunal,” Kika said in an interview with The NewsHawks.
“It is no longer entertaining cases involving cases of individuals. It is entertaining disputes between states. We have not been part of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights because Zimbabwe has not signed the protocol that binds us to that court. So that court is not available. Other countries have signed, but not Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe is also not part of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Zimbabwe refused to sign the Rome Statute. So, from a Sadc level, to an African level, to an international level, there is no court that we can go to get dispute resolution. It is part of Zimbabwe’s systemic attempt to not have a dispute resolution mechanism beyond our borders.”
Kika said Zimbabwe has been left to use the local route.
“So, it confines us to our courts. In the case of Job Sikhala, we have to go through the local court. For instance, there has been an appeal that has been dismissed. There will be another appeal again. We will continue going through that motions until we get to the Supreme Court. What we then would like is to get the Constitutional Court to pronounce on the constitutionality of this treatment,” he said.
“Because I would like to believe it is unusual, abnormal and unheard of and absurd for a person to denied bail for over 20 times. What we continue to do is petition regional and international mechanisms and special procedures to look at the case of Zimbabwe and pile political and diplomatic pressure on government to do the right thing.
“So, institutions like the ACHPR, we have been there, and we have given information and details on the case of Job Sikhala. We have given them details and reports so they can help pile diplomatic and legal pressure over the government of Zimbabwe for it to abide by its own constitution.”
Zimbabwean government officials have been accused of downplaying gross human rights violations in the country in their quest to normalse relations with the international community.
In May, local human rights organisations flagged the Zimbabwean delegation after it told the 75th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) that Zimbabwe is upholding economic and human rights, contrary to what has been obtaining in the country.
The ACHPR, inaugurated in 1987 in Ethiopia, looks into the protection of human and peoples’ rights across the continent.