Africa News of Wednesday, 31 January 2024
Zimbabwe opposition politician and former MP Job Sikhala is finally a free man after a record 595 days on pre-trial remand.
A Harare magistrate has sentenced Sikhala and his co-accused, MP Godfrey Sithole, to a two-year, wholly suspended term for five years. Sithole was granted bail after five months on remand. They were both convicted of inciting public violence.
Sikhala’s lawyers say they will appeal against the conviction at the High Court.
He was arrested in June 2022 and charged with encouraging the violence that followed the discovery of the dismembered body of Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) activist Moreblessing Ali in a well, three weeks after she went missing.
The news triggered violence in Ali’s Chitungwiza neighbourhood, some 30km (19 miles) south of Harare, the capital.
Sikhala, who was the Ali family lawyer, was accused of having used social media to encourage the violence. He denied the charge.
Convicting the duo, the trial magistrate said evidence showed that Sikhala, then a member of parliament, and Sithole were responsible for the violence.
The courts granted Sithole bail after five months in remand, but Sikhala’s several applications for bail failed.
This fed rumours that Sikhala was a victim of persecution by the state. He said he had been arrested more than 60 times without a single conviction.
Sikhala’s legal woes are, however, far from over.
According to his lawyer, he is still facing charges of disorderly conduct, inciting violence and publishing falsehoods.