FORMER opposition legislator Job Sikhala will know his fate today when the Magistrates Court delivers a ruling in a case he is being charged with inciting public violence.Sikhala has been in detention since his arrest in June 2022 accused of mobilising opposition supporters to riot and avenge the death of murdered Citizens Coalition for Change activist, Moreblessing Ali.
The former legislator has had his appeals to be released on bail turned down countless times, with the courts describing him as an unrepentant repeat offender capable of committing more crime.
Yesterday, the Job Sikhala Solidarity Movement (JSSM) rallied ordinary Zimbabweans and other stakeholders to besiege the Harare Magistrates Court during his bail ruling.JSSM president Darlington Chigweda said Zimbabweans attending the court session should wear black to protest his continued incarceration.
“January 24 is freedom day, not only for Job Sikhala, but for the generality of Zimbabwe’s citizens who are suffering the brunt of brutal subjugation,” Chigweda said.“We call upon all citizens of Zimbabwe to wear black on this great day, mourning the death of democracy. We also emphasise that citizens should maintain peace and unity in the face of injustice and extreme provocation from the regime in Harare. Our position remains, Job Sikhala is innocent and must be released.”
Ali’s killer, Pius Mukandi, alias Jamba, was sentenced to 30 years in jail in December last year.In court, Jamba said he was framed and tortured to confess to killing Ali.
Ali’s body was cut into pieces and the remains were found in a disused well. She is yet to be buried. Chigweda said Ali’s death was politically motivated.“The late Moreblessing was murdered in cold blood by an alleged member of the ruling Zanu Pf party. She was killed for her political beliefs,” Chigweda said, adding that Sikhala was being subjected to political prosecution and persecution.
“Sikhala boldly demanded justice for Ali. For that, he has spent one year seven months and eight days in pre-trial detention. This is a clear case of persecution through prosecution,” he said.
“Sikhala has, however, remained unshaken by the shameless persecution. He has demonstrated unmatched resolve and an undying passion to fight for a better Zimbabwe.“Sikhala has inspired millions of Zimbabweans through regular epistles shrewdly penned from the dungeons of Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.”
Zimbabweans at home and abroad petitioned President Emmerson Mnangagwa to intervene to secure Sikhala’s release.Government, however, said Mnangagwa could not intervene in contravention of the principle of separation of powers between the Judiciary and the Executive.
Sikhala’s continued detention has also attracted international condemnation, with critics accusing the Judiciary of being “compromised and captured” to deal harshly with opposition activists.
Human rights watchdogs have condemned Sikhala’s pre-trial detention while calling for government to uphold the Constitution.According to the Constitution, every Zimbabwean has the right to fair trial.
Chigweda said Sikhala was a symbol of resistance against authoritarianism.“Sikhala’s freedom will mark a new era in the history of Zimbabwe. The movement will launch a protracted struggle to push back against authoritarianism on freedom day,” Chigweda said.
“The dictatorship in Harare has to be confronted by a united front of all citizens, so that Zimbabwe can be transformed into a democracy. The solidarity movement views the Zimbabwean State as a perfect neo-colonial State run by incompetent greedy elites.”
Sikhala faces two other charges – obstructing the course of justice and disorderly conduct.In November, he was acquitted on charges of obstructing the course of justice, a case emanating from claims that he had accused Zanu PF of being behind Ali’s murder.