Sikhala being persecuted: Lawyer

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Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala

BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
PROMINENT human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa yesterday said the endless arrests, without conviction, of Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala (Citizens Coalition for Change, CCC) was a clear case of political persecution.

Mtetwa was responding to the police who were opposing Sikhala’s bail application claiming that he had shown propensity to commit crime.

But Mtetwa said Sikhala had been arrested a record 67 times, but has never been convicted.

“The accused was arrested 67 times, but he has never been convicted of any and many cases have failed before reaching trial. The investigating officer cannot say he had a propensity, but they have propensity to arrest the accused,” Mtetwa said.

“He could not have obstructed the investigation because he was in custody. You want to subvert his right because you kept on saying he has a pending case which you do not want to try him on.”

Sikhala was arrested last month alongside Chitungwiza North legislator Godfrey Sithole (CCC) on charges of inciting violence following the skirmishes at the funeral of murdered opposition activist Moreblessing Ali.

Sikhala faces another charge of obstructing the course of justice after he allegedly blamed Zanu PF for Ali’s murder.

But Mtetwa said Sikhala was appointed Ali’s family lawyer, and addressed the mourners at the funeral in line with the mandate given to him.

“Did the bail say don’t address mourners? The opposition to bail in this matter is completely baseless. This is malicious and designed to keep him in custody because you know the charges will not get him convicted,” Mtetwa said.

Sikhala appeared before magistrate Stanford Mambanje, who dismissed his application for refusal of remand.

The magistrate said the State had shown reasonable suspicion that the accused committed an offence.

The matter was postponed to today for continuation of the defence’s submissions.

In an unrelated incident, jailed former Mines ministry permanent secretary Francis Gudyanga’s appeal against sentence was yesterday postponed to July 27 after he indicated plans to beef up his appeal.

He was expected to appear before High Court judge Justice Benjamin Chikowero. Gudyanga is serving two-and-a-half years for abusing his duties as a public officer.

He was in February this year caged for four years by Harare magistrate Barbara Chimboza, who suspended part of his sentence on condition he reinstitutes the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) of US$25 228.

He was convicted on charges of fraud after receiving US$28 910 board member fees from MMCZ for three years despite its absence.

Gudyanga was charged alongside former Mines minister Walter Chidakwa, who was, however, acquitted at the close of the State case.