Tsitsi Dangarembga Tells Mnangagwa That The "Injustice Against Sikhala Is Too Visible To Ignore"
Award-winning author and feminist Tsitsi Dangarembga has told President Emmerson Mnangagwa that “injustice” against jailed Zengeza West Member of Parliament, Job Sikhala was “too visible to ignore.”
In a petition she originated together with Dr Ibbo Mandaza, Tony Reeler, Musa Kika, Phillan Zamchiya, Dr Frances Lovemore and Briggs Bomba, Dangarembga told Mnangagwa that Sikhala’s case mimicked political arrests during the liberation struggle.
Sikhala was arrested in June together with another legislator Godfrey Sithole and 14 Nyatsime residents over the 14 June violence which erupted during the funeral wake of slain Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activist, Moreblessing Ali.
They have been in jail since then with courts denying them bail on several occasions.
Dangarembga urges all Zimbabweans and defenders of democracy in the world to sign this petition, which was delivered to the President of Zimbabwe along with the first signatories, in order to “stop the illegal incarceration of Job Sikhala and his companions, to put an end to the unjust use of the judiciary as a political weapon and to promote the rule of law and democracy in Zimbabwe. Here is the petition, below. Detained Job Sikhala and Gordon Sithole along with 14 others need you to sign this petition, too.” Reads the petition:
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We, the undersigned, are citizens and persons who care about Zimbabwe.
We petition Your Excellency to bring to your consideration, a most unusual situation obtaining in the arrest and detention of MPs Honourable Job Sikhala and Honourable Godfrey Sithole, and 14 residents of Nyatsime, Chitungwiza following the violence of 14 June 2022 in Nyatsime. Our duty to Zimbabwe constrains us from maintaining silence.
The multiple denials of bail these two have endured, multiple times in the Magistrates Court and multiple times in the High Court, makes for an unusual and unprecedented situation. We cannot think of any prosecution in recent times where one has been denied bail for such numerous times, for offences of inciting public violence and obstruction of justice, which Honourable Sikhala is charged with, and inciting public violence, which Honourable Godfrey Sithole is charged with. MPs Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole have now spent 85 days in pre-trial incarceration at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
When this is juxtaposed to the timely and little-resisted granting of bail to high profile politically exposed persons accused of serious corruption, and they being flight risks, questions about the equal treatment of persons before the courts arise. There appear to be targeted differential treatment of those arrested and detained for charges emanating from political circumstances.
During their incarceration, Honourable Sikhala and Honourable Sithole have been subjected to leg irons; their lawyers have in some instances been denied access – in once instance prompting a court application; and other concerned individuals have been prevented from visiting them. Honourable Sikhala’s health has deteriorated.
While we all noted the political violence that occurred in Nyastime, it is curious that arrest and detention was targeted at members and perceived supporters of the political opposition. No one associated with any other formation was arrested. Among the 14 residents currently in detention are victims of arson who were arrested upon presenting themselves to a police station to report the arson.
In the case of Honourable Sikhala, he has been arrested over 60 times, and has never been convicted. He has no record of escaping justice. To then deny him bail on the basis that he has the propensity to offend the law, is curious. This is in spite of the Constitution providing for bail as a right only to be denied in exceptional circumstances.
When the actors in the justice system appear to act in ways wholly contrary to their sworn duty and oath to uphold and implement the law without fear or favour, inferences of external hands in work of the judiciary are bound to arise.
The offences that Honourable Sikhala, Honourable Sithole and the 14 residents of Nyastime are facing, have not had this kind of treatment visited upon anyone charged of them in recent times. This treatment, we are aware, was commonplace during the times of the liberation struggle. In those days, such kind of arrests and detentions were known to be political, and many including those currently in public office, suffered those and are well aware of their evils. An observer witnessing these developments cannot help but draw parallels. Our belief is that law must maintain its supremacy and moral high ground above politics.
The injustice is too visible to ignore, and we would be unfaithful in our devotion to the country if we remain silent.
The law must have moral content, and its enforcement must have humanity. The Constitution of Zimbabwe is moral in both substance and process. The enforcement thereof is robbing the law and legal process that gives it authority, respect, recognition and supremacy. Judicial authority itself derives from the people, per section 162 of the Constitution.
Your High Office is charged with the sacrosanct duty per section 90 of the Constitution to ensure that the Constitution and all other laws are faithfully observed, in particular, to ensure protection of the fundamental human rights and freedoms and the rule of law. Of the many rights, liberty and human freedom is a cornerstone right, a right that many Zimbabweans so reverently and fervently fought for.
The unusual trajectory that these cases have taken cannot be ignored. These cases, in our view, warrant an inquiry into how the justice system has come to this. The consequences of ignoring this will be too dire for Zimbabwe’s young democracy to bear.
The criminal justice system was never created as a platform to silence or punish political dissent or holding of divergent views. When that happens, as is happening to Honourable Sikhala, Honourable Sithole and the 14 residents of Nyatsime, it erodes the value and essence of the criminal justice system and diminishes public confidence and trust in the justice system. That should not be allowed to happen. Where the criminal justice system is weaponized against dissent, there are no victors. The justice system, the accused and the generality of Zimbabweans derive no benefit from this. Should there be cause, by all means the law must take its course. But doing so without cause erodes confidence in the justice system.
We expect a resolution to this abuse of law and process.
Ibbo Mandaza Tony Reeler Simba Makoni Tsitsi Dangarembwa Frances Lovemore Philani Zamchiya Dzikamai Bere Briggs Bomba Musa Kika Adebayo Olukoshi (Nigeria) Ahmed Rajab (Global Pan African Movement) Ahmed Rajab (Tanzania) Alexander Rusero Arthur Mutambara Auxilia Kwirirai Batsirai Jambwa Brian Kagoro Brian Makwarara Brian Raftopoulos Brooks Marmon Bruce Grobbelaar Byron Black Charles Ngwerume (USA) Chipo Chung Chirikure Chirikure Chitauro Shambamuto Chofamba Sithole (UK) Dan Ngwenya Daves Guzha David S Mpofu Dominic Benhura Dr Neo Simutanyi Dudu Manhenga Dzingai Mutumbuka Eldred Masunungure Elinor Sisulu (SA) Gamu Murerwa Geoff Nyarota Gerrard Marshall (UK) Global Governance Africa: Chris Maroleng (SA) Global Pan Afrikan Movement Members of the Governing Council (Kampala, Uganda) Gorden Moyo Hasu Patel Henry Olonga Hope Masike Hopewell Chingono Jameson Timba Jethro Mpofu (SA) Judith Todd Ken Mufuka Kenneth Mufuka (USA) Kubi Chaza-Indi Leslie Chirunga Lysias Sibanda Mandivavarira Taruvinga (SA) Marcia Cannon (SA) Margaret Dongo Martin Rupiya Maud Blair (UK) Mavis Jackson Antoine (UK) Maureen Kademannga Max Jamela Mbita Chitala Mudiwa Mundawarara Mutumwa Mawere Namatai Kwekweza Nancy Minu (SA) Napoleon Abdulai (Global Pan African Movement) Naran Munhenzva Nick Chouhau Nick Price Nivard Vaz Onalena Selolwan (Botswana) Patricia Rodney (Walter Rodney Foundation) Pedzisai Ruhanya Peter Ndoro Petronella Munhenzva Pfepferere Mudambo (Botswana) Raymond Suttner (SA) Rejoice Ngwenya Rene Mushayahama Reward Mushayabasa (UK) Richmond Goss (UK) Ross Harvey (SA) Rtd Justice Ebrahim S.B. Masola Sam Shakong (SA) Shingirai Mushawedu Shonhe Toendepi Simba Chikanza Simblisios Chihambakwe Solomon Guramatunhu Sophie Mokoena (SABC) Strive Masiyiwa Tapiwa Maswela Tatenda Taibu Tendai Mbofana Tendayi Mundawarara Teresa Beyns (Ger) Themba Dhlodhlo Themba Ndebele Thomas Mapfumo Trevor Ncube William Nyemba Yemu Katerere Zandile Hodgson (UK)