Job Sikhala — A plea for tolerance

Hopewell and Job Sikhala

Prison is a terrible place to be no matter the conditions. I was in police detention two decades ago. The conditions were inhuman then; they must be worse now.

I hear from Hopewell Chin'ono, Jacob Ngarivhume and others that conditions in Zimbabwean prisons have deteriorated.

There is an urgent need for prison reform and infrastructure modernisation, but that is a subject for another day.

Citizens Coalition for Change’s Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala and his Chitungwiza North counterpart  Godfrey Sithole have now been in prison for 113 days. They face charges of inciting violence following the murder of fellow party members Moreblessing Ali.

Moreblessing’s mutilated remains were found three weeks after she was reported missing.

 It is difficult to dismiss the suspicion that the two incarcerated MPs and 14 others are being used to send a chilling message to opposition supporters.

Pius Jamba who is accused of the gruesome murder of Moreblessing seems to be getting far better treatment than Sikhala and others now commonly referred to as the Nyatsime-16.

Moreblessing’s gruesome murder and the Nyatsime-16’s continued detention is the intersection of what is so wrong with Zimbabwe right now.

It is an ugly space where we have become highly intolerant of each other’s varying views.

It is a space where an under-pressure government has criminalised dissent.

Years of repression and evidence of high-level corruption have fuelled militancy among the youth desperate for a better life.

Those dissenting have become toxic out of sheer frustration and anger and in a desperate attempt to be heard.

Instead of responding with compassion and occupying the moral high ground, the government has resorted to intimidation and brute force. It appears there is no adult in the room.

We cannot continue like this. We are, as a nation, hurtling towards self-destruction.

Evidence all round points to a future we don’t want. We must press the pause button and take a good look at ourselves.

Most of us are too angry, too toxic and too ugly inside to be of any use to ourselves and posterity.

We need help. We must not expect help from neighbouring countries or the international community but from some cool and wise heads in our midst.

People such as Reverend Kenneth Mtata, Todd Moyo, Shingai Mutasa, Muchadeyi Masunda quickly come to mind.

We have to start talking to each other and not past each other.

We have to stop the name-calling and insults and have tough conversations around the issues that continue to bedevil our society.

An election under the current environment will not resolve our problems; if anything, it will accentuate our political differences.

Tolerance, empathy, compassion and love are critical ingredients in nation building but they are in acute shortage at the moment.

We must realise by now that “a house divided against itself, will not stand.”

Whatever our differences we remain compatriots, not sworn enemies.

In the interim, and urgently, those responsible for Moreblissing’s murder must be brought to justice.

The Nyatsime-16 must face a fair trial and be discharged if the State has no evidence to convict.

Their treatment is a serious indictment of the Zimbabwe justice system.


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