If Sikhala isn’t a political prisoner, then even Mnangagwa was never one!

Source: If Sikhala isn’t a political prisoner, then even Mnangagwa was never one!

So, Information Minister Jenfan Muswere found it necessary to rebuff opposition leader Job Sikhala’s assertions of having been a political prisoner during his nearly 600 days of pre-conviction incarceration.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

Sikhala, who languished in prison after being repeatedly denied bail by Zimbabwe’s courts, made these statements during his recent address to the UN Geneva Human Rights and Democracy Summit in Switzerland.

Muswere’s flimsy attempts at a rebuttal were largely premised on the accusation that Sikhala had indeed violated the country’s laws, and as such, his arrest was justified.

He even cited the Criminal Codification and Reform Act, which he ludicrously claimed criminalized the publishing and communication of false statements prejudicial to the State.

Of course, as to be expected, Muswere totally neglected to mention that section 31(a) (iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23] was struck off the statute books by the Constitution Court in October 2013.

In other words, regardless of Muswere’s wild allegations, Sikhala was arrested, repeatedly denied bail, incarcerated, and subsequently found guilty on a law that does not exist in Zimbabwe!

Can we then not say this was all done as a form of persecution against Sikhala – through the now all-too-familiar weaponization of the law by the Zimbabwe regime?

Was, therefore, Sikhala not a political prisoner?

Was this not done as a way of punishing him for his fearless uncompromising stance against President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa administration’s oppressive anti-people policies?

In fact, was this not a strategy intended to finally cower and silence Sikhala once and for all?

Let me take this issue a step further.

We have heard those in power today repeatedly telling us of the persecution they faced under the colonial regime.

Even Mnangagwa never tires boasting over his incarceration (and near execution) after supposedly blowing up a locomotive in 1965.

Whether this incident actually took place or not is not the issue at the moment.

However, why does Mnangagwa believe that his arrest and jailing qualified him as a political pensioner?

Had he not violated the law when he bombed the train?

Even today, under his administration, what would be the fate of someone who did the same thing?

So, was Mnangagwa a political pensioner is a pure criminal?

In fact, can the same not be said of all the other nationalist leaders and liberation combatants who were imprisoned during the colonial era?

Did they not all break the country’s laws in one or the other?

Besides, is planning and waging an armed insurrection against one’s government not an undeniable serious criminal offense?

Who, then, was a political prisoner during that time – or were they all just felons, who even today should have criminal records to their names?

Why did I bring up this matter?

Well, I wanted to show the likes of Muswere that the definition of a political prisoner is not as simplistic as he may want it to appear.

There is more to defining someone a political prisoner than merely basing it on whether they had broken the law or not.

It has a lot to do with the motive.

One can actually willfully violate the law and yet still be a legitimate political prisoner.

When nationalist leaders elected to wage an insurrection against the Rhodesia regime, they were fighting for the liberation of the country from colonial rule.

So, as much as they indeed broke the law – and were, in effect, criminals – they did this for a worthy political cause.

This, thus, qualified them as political prisoners.

We can apply the same logic to today’s generation of political prisoners.

As much as some may actually break the law – for example, on public gatherings and demonstrations – but will they not be somehow justified in doing so?

This is especially so when these laws are being abused by the Mnangagwa regime to stifle citizens’ rights and freedoms and as a weapon for oppression.

Granted, someone may break these laws and effectively be a criminal – but can he also not justifiably be regarded as a political pensioner?

Such an individual would, in fact, be a freedom fighter – in the same mold as our 1960s and 70s liberation icons.

It is, therefore, quite clear that what defines a political prisoner is not as simple as the likes of Muswere would want to portray.

Be that as it may, after all has been said and done, when it comes to Sikhala, it is clear that he never even broke any laws.

He has tried by all means to be as law abiding as possible, even under some of the most repressive laws.

No one can deny that he is a political prisoner of the highest order – regardless of the propaganda Muswere may try to peddle.