Source: MDC supporters protest as Sikhala goes ‘missing’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 10, 2019
BY OBEY MANAYITI/DESMOND CHINGARANDE
A GROUP of MDC supporters yesterday brought business near Harare Central Police Station to a halt as they protested against the arrest of their leaders, including vice-chairman Job Sikhala.
Sikhala was on Tuesday charged with treason in Harare after he allegedly told a gathering in Bikita that President Emmerson Mnangagwa would be overthrown before 2023.
He was then allegedly secretly transported to Masvingo after the police sold a dummy to the defence team that he was appearing at the Harare Magistrates Court.
The placard-waving supporters, who were singing and whistling under the watchful eye of riot police — just across the road, said they were not leaving until the decision to arrest Sikhala was overturned. They accused the police officers of trying to draw them into an unnecessary confrontation.
Some of the protesters had been waiting for Sikhala at the courts in the morning, before deciding to take their demonstration to Harare Central Police Station upon hearing that he was supposed to be tried in Masvingo.
“That will not happen. If they decide to act in this manner, then we are here to stay,” shouted an elderly woman before whistling to the police details watching the crowd.
Others were protesting against the arrest of MDC youth assembly secretary-general Gift Ostlos Siziba.
In an interview during the protests, MDC youth assembly spokesperson Stephen Chuma said political arrests were going to trigger massive demonstrations from angry citizens.
“We took to the streets today to register our discontentment at police conduct and wanton disregard of our civil and political rights,” he said.
“Yesterday, they arrested the party’s national vice-chairman on flimsy accusations that he committed treason, and today, they summoned our youth assembly secretary-general to the police for addressing a political gathering. We strongly feel our right to freedom of expression is being wantonly trampled on.”
Human rights lawyer Jeremiah Bhamu told journalists at the Harare Magistrates Court that the defence had negotiated with the police for Sikhala to appear at a Harare court around 2:15pm.
“We were told that he is appearing at the Harare Magistrates Court after negotiating when they initially told us that he would appear at Bikita Magistrates Court. But now, we do not have an idea where he has been taken to. The Prosecutor-General consented to have him appear at the Harare Magistrates Court, but we do not know where he is at the moment,” Bhamu said.
But later, he told NewsDay that Sikhala had been taken to Masvingo and that he was also on his way there.
MDC secretary for legal affairs, Innocent Gonese, said the move by the police was tantamount to abduction.
“The police officers told us NPA (National Prosecution Authority) consented to jurisdiction issues and made us to believe that he was now appearing at the Harare Magistrates Court,” Gonese said.
“But it’s clear they sold us a dummy and diverted our attention. He was abducted in open daylight and we have no clue with regards to his whereabouts. We are assuming they have already taken him to Masvingo, as they had indicated earlier on.”
The court gallery was full in anticipation of Sikhala’s appearance, but the supporters, who had come in solidarity, started singing derogatory songs in anger after MDC vice-president Tendai Biti told them that Sikhala was allegedly “stolen” from Law and Order police officers and they do not know where he was.
The supporters went outside the court, singing and holding placards and the police were later called, but they found most of the protesters gone.
Siziba was yesterday charged with incitement to commit public violence after telling a weekend rally that Mnangagwa risked being toppled like other African dictators.