PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has been implored to set aside political differences with some opposition parties and end the incarceration of Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) legislators Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole and 14 other party activists from Nyatsime who were arrested in June for allegedly inciting violence.
Over 30 000 Zimbabweans, including those in the diaspora signed a petition calling for the release of Sikhala (Zengeza West MP), Sithole (Chitungwiza North MP) and the Nyatsime 14.
The MPs were imprisoned on June 14 on charges of inciting violence in the Nyatsime area following the murder of CCC activist Moreblessing Ali.
The courts have on several occasions turned down their bail applications. The State insists on Sikhala’s continued incarceration claiming that he was an unrepentant repeat offender who is capable of inciting violence.
The petition, which was initiated by the Southern Africa Political Economy Series (SAPES) Trust was handed over to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) on Friday last week.Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said Mnangagwa respects the principle of separation of powers and would not interfere with the courts.
However, in a statement yesterday, the petitioners from the Platform for Concerned Citizens (PCC) said they were not seeking Mnanagwa‘s direct orders to have the CCC members released.
They said what they want is for Mnangagwa to guard against violation of the country’s Constitution as the President.
“The PCC issues this brief statement in order to demonstrate that the issue of the continued denial of bail and detention of the 16 Zimbabweans has resulted in widespread condemnation by Zimbabweans themselves,” the statement reads.“This demeans the reputation of Zimbabwe as country where the rule of law dominates rather than creating the impression, as many people point out in their comments on the petition, that these 16 citizens are the victims of political persecution. Here we would point out the anomaly that in the past the courts have been willing to grant bail to persons arrested for very serious crimes such as armed robbery, as shown in a report of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Who Guards the Guards.
“Finally, it should be clear that the PCC does not seek the direct interference of the President in the justice system, but rather that the influence of the highest office of the State be brought to bear in ensuring absolute adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law.”
Sikhala’s fresh bid for freedom was dismissed last Wednesday by a Harare magistrate. His lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa and Jeremiah Bamu accused the State of colluding with the courts to deny him bail.
In his remarks on the International Day of Democracy last Thursday, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Musa Kika said: “In Zimbabwe, regrettably, 42 years later, we cannot stand up and proclaim to ourselves and the world that we have done the best. As we speak, critics of government, the civil society, opposition politicians, the media and individual citizens in their private capacity are being persecuted before the courts. We are seeing the unusual in the courts where individuals are denied their right to bail. They are enduring lengthy pre-trial incarceration. As we speak, we have two Members of Parliament (Sikhala and Sithole) who have been imprisoned for over 90 days, which is not democracy.”
Efforts to get a comment form Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba were fruitless; he was not picking up his phone.
Meanwhile, in a letter that he wrote from his prison cell addressed to the PCC, Sithole decried that the security of their families were at stake and appealed for assistance for CCTV installation at their homes.
Sithole revealed that they were spending most of their time in prison reading political material, and appealed for literature on biographies of top politicians in the country.