Zimbabwean Opposition Politician Job Sikhala Denied Bail For 15th Time Since Arrest
Job Sikhala, a Zimbabwean opposition politician, has been denied bail for the fifteenth time since his arrest in June 2022. He was arrested and charged with inciting violence, accused of threatening to avenge the murder of opposition activist, Moreblessing Ali, an allegation that has been dismissed by critics as politically motivated.
Sikhala’s trial began on January 3, 2023, but has stalled after he requested that the proceedings be broadcast live. In a letter sent from prison, Sikhala said he is unwell and fears being killed in prison. He wrote:
I have not been feeling well for the past three weeks.Feedback
I don’t really understand and do not know what it is. I pray it is not colon cancer.
I ask all Zimbabweans to pray for me to be healed from this pain.
Usanetseke neNetOne airtime.
Baya *405# utenge neEcoCash
Sikhala added that he believed his life to be under threat, and that he feared being killed in prison.
If found guilty, he could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. Critics say that his continued incarceration is an attempt at political persecution ahead of a crucial election this year.
The CCC, the political party Sikhala represents, was born out of the former Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and he is viewed as an important figure in drumming up urban support for the party. The continued detention of Sikhala has stoked concerns over another government crackdown on opposition politicians and has led to widespread criticism and calls for his release. CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said:
The continued incarceration of Job Sikhala is one of the latest signs of the political crisis and shrinking democratic space in Zimbabwe. He is being persecuted. There is no legal justification for him to be detained without trial for over 200 days.
Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza, who has petitioned the international community to intervene in Sikhala’s case, said:
It appears inevitable that the onslaught on the opposition will intensify as elections approach, not to mention the accompanying violence and bloodshed.
According to Lawyer Doug Coltart, it is evident that the state intends to detain Sikhala for an extended period, and it appears that this action is politically motivated. Coltart believes that Sikhala’s detainment is a ploy to remove him from the political arena.
Tendai Biti, a former finance minister and opposition MP, expressed shock at the continued denial of bail to Job Sikhala, stating that it represents a fundamental change of circumstances. He added that the law must remain autonomous and protect itself against capture.
Similarly, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono condemned Sikhala’s detention in several Twitter posts and conveyed Sikhala’s determination to continue the struggle for freedom.
Zimbabwean actor Chipo Chung also questioned the detention of Sikhala and demanded justice for victims of violence, referring to the murder of Moreblessing Ali. Chung expressed disappointment at the lack of progress towards a new dispensation and called on President Mnangagwa to address the situation. Chung is the daughter of Zimbabwe liberation war hero and former minister of education, Fay Chung.
Zimbabweans are scheduled to participate in a general election on 23 August amid growing concerns about violence by the ruling ZANU PF party. Opposition politician Nelson Chamisa is expected to challenge President Emmerson Mnangagwa for the second time, with early indications suggesting another closely contested race.
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