Zengeza West legislator, Job Sikhala, has completed a full year in remand prison with members of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) demanding his release.
Sikhala was arrested on June 14 last year on charges of incitement to commit violence and disorderly conduct stemming from his attendance at the funeral of Moreblessing Ali, a CCC activist, who had been missing for three weeks before her mutilated body was discovered on June 11, 2022.
The legislator is being held at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare.
Human rights lawyer and member of CCC, David Coltart, noted that Sikhala remains in unlawful solitary confinement at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.
“Any lawyer worth his or her salt will confirm what a travesty this is,” he said and lamented that the international community and churches were not too vocal about Sikhala’s unfair detention.
“The only greater shame than Sikhala’s detention is the relative silence of churches and the international community. It is an utter disgrace that democrats and people of faith have been so muted in their criticism of this appalling injustice.”
Hwange Central MP and CCC member, Daniel Molokele, also called for people to make every Wednesday, “a Wiwa Wednesday” in honour of the jailed legislator.
“Today marks a full year since Sikhala was unfairly and unjustly incarcerated. Free Job Sikhala now,” he said.
On its Twitter page, CCC bemoaned how Sikhala had spent 365 days in jail on pretrial detention, despite no evidence showing his guilt.
“Although bail is a constitutional entitlement, he has been denied it several times. Sikhala is being prosecuted for representing Moreblessing Ali who was brutally murdered by a member of Zanu PF. Let’s continue to demand his release as he is innocent,” said the party.
On May 3, 2023, Sikhala was convicted of obstructing justice and was given a wholly suspended six months sentence with an option of paying US$ 600 or spending six months in jail.
Sikhala’s trial was linked to a video posted on the internet in which he is accused of saying that the ruling Zanu PF party had killed Ali.
He denied making the video and an expert witness testified in court that the footage had been tampered with.
However, following his conviction and sentencing, Sikhala remained in custody, as he awaits trial for two other charges of incitement to commit violence and disorderly conduct.
Sikhala becomes the second opposition lawmaker to endure lengthy imprisonment after founding MDC MP for Chimanimani Roy Bennett was jailed one year for assaulting then justice minister Patrick Chinamasa in Parliament in 2004.