BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
MDC ALLIANCE deputy chairperson and Zengeza West legislator Job Sikhala yesterday challenged the State’s bid to place him on remand, arguing that the Facebook account which he is alleged to have used to communicate falsehoods was not his.
Sikhala was arrested for violating section 31 of Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, but his lawyers Jeremiah Bamu and Harrison Nkomo argue that the statute was declared to be in violation of the Constitution hence he was being charged under a “non-existent law”.
The State alleges that Sikhala used a Facebook account under the name “Job Wiwa Sikhala” to falsely publish that a police officer had killed a nine-month-old baby, allegations which the police have dismissed.
But Bamu told magistrate Ngoni Nduna that Sikhala’s arrest was arbitrary and unlawful, hence he should not be placed on remand.
It is alleged that Sikhala’s statements on his alleged Facebook account intended to incite or promote public disorder, thereby endangering public safety. However, the State led by prosecutor Lancelot Mutsokoti disputed Sikhala’s arguments, saying section 31 of the said Act had not been declared in contravention of the Constitution.
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who is also challenging his placement on remand on the same basis for a similar offence, was yesterday remanded in custody for the third time since he was arrested.
Magistrate Lazini Ncube will provide his ruling on his application today.
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Yesterday, he ordered the prison officers not to put leg irons on Chin’ono as it was inhumane.
Chin’ono’s lawyers also stated that the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services officers had defied a court order to the effect that he should be separated from other inmates since he had been in contact with people who tested positive to COVID-19.
In a letter he wrote while in prison addressed to journalists, Chin’ono said he had opted to sacrifice his freedom and fight the constitutionality of the law under which he was being charged.
“I have chosen to fight the use of this unconstitutional law used against me,” he stated in the letter.
“If I choose to take bail without exposing the use of unconstitutional laws, the same law will be used against other journalists and ordinary citizens to muzzle them as happened to Sikhala.”
Sikhala was Chin’ono’s lawyer when he first appeared in court on Friday on the charges of publishing falsehoods, but was arrested at the Harare Magistrates’ Court shortly after the matter had been postponed.
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