READER, what a sad day for democracy in Zimbabwe. A Harare magistrate on May 4, 2023, found firebrand opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) politician and Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala guilty of attempting to defeat the course of justice.
The magistrate sentenced him to six months in prison wholly suspended on condition that he pays US$600 fine.
Sikhala has been in detention without trial for more than 300 days.
The prosecutors argued that Sikhala diverted State investigations by blaming the ruling Zanu PF for the murder of CCC member, Moreblessing Ali, in June 2022.
Reader, the system is just testing the waters as this is a harbinger of worse things to come.
Sikhala remains in prison because he has three outstanding cases before the courts where he is being denied bail.
The charges are:
(a) posting on social media that a police officer struck a baby to death with a baton stick.
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Ironically, the charge is based on a law that is no longer existent in Zimbabwe.
The legal provision being used to charge Sikhala was declared void by the Constitutional Court in 2014 in a case of Madanhire & Another v The AG.
However, CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere was on April 5, 2023 convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of US$500 for tweeting about the same baby under the very same provision declared void by the Constitutional Court.
Mahere has since appealed against both conviction and sentence.
(b) inciting public violence after allegedly organising protests against corruption and government misrule in 2020.
Transform Zimbabwe opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume was sentenced to four years imprisonment on April 28, 2023 on a similar charge.
(c) inciting violence to avenge the murder of opposition activist, Ali.
Behind the scenes, Sikhala is being persecuted because President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s loyalists mysteriously believe that he and others like Ngarivhume organised the July 31, 2020 foiled protests with the sole aim of removing Mnangagwa from power through a “palace coup”.
Their belief stems from internally-induced shock as some Zanu PF members disgruntled with Mnangagwa’s rule supported the anti-government demonstrations, albeit for a different agenda — to settle internal political scores.
Sikhala has convincingly told me that the “palace coup” allegations are “baseless, frivolous and vexatious” and are being used by his political enemies to justify his “political elimination”.
If anything, Sikhala wants to remove the entirety and not just a faction of Zanu PF through constitutional, peaceful and democratic means and he deserves no political persecution for holding opposing views.
However, the cowardly Mnangagwa loyalists insist that the planned demonstrations were aimed at parachuting Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga to power, hence the vicious response.
Yet it is clear that if anyone wanted to use the anti-government protests to remove Mnangagwa and replace him with Chiwenga, it was Zanu PF members and not Sikhala and others.
During the August 19, 2020 closed-door Zanu PF politburo meeting, members generally agreed that there were internal forces trying to remove Mnangagwa and replace him with Chiwenga.
Consequently, former politburo members Claveria Chizema and the late Tendai Savanhu were expelled from the ruling party on August 19, 2020 for allegedly supporting the July 31, 2020 protests.
A Zanu PF youth league member, Tinashe Mathusa, was also expelled for allegedly printing and distributing anti- Mnangagwa flyers and pro-Chiwenga placards for the protests.
Some posters read: “Our general, liberate us from Mnangagwa”.
The then youth chair for Matabeleland North province, Tamuka Nyoni, was suspended from Zanu PF for allegedly receiving money from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance to mobilise for the July 31, 2020 protests.
From this premise, the Mnangagwa loyalists, who are running scared, imagine mysterious alliances between dissenting internal forces and opposition leaders championing genuine national grievances.
The Mnangagwa followers are, therefore, using the “justice system” to unashamedly manufacture charges in a clear case of abusing the law and courts to fight imagined political wars and to send shivers down the spine of anyone harbouring any thoughts to challenge Mnangagwa’s presidency from within and without.
Reader, beyond Sikhala, the sum national political effect is to cow the opposition and outspoken activists into submission ahead of this year’s general election.
Sikhala is clearly a political prisoner who deserves to be immediately and unconditionally released. This will take solidarity in multiple forms from good human beings.