HARARE – Tormented legislator Job Sikhala clocks one full year under pre-trial detention this Wednesday, becoming the second sitting opposition legislator to endure lengthy imprisonment since 2000.
Commonly described as a political prisoner by his party and civil society, the Zengeza West lawmaker was arrested 14 June last year charged with obstructing the course of justice and violence incitement.
The charges stem from wild scenes of politically motivated violence that rocked Nyatsime area in Chitungwiza in the aftermath of Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activist Moreblessing Ali’s cruel murder weeks before.
The veteran politician’s many attempts to secure bail have routinely been turned down by the country’s courts on the ostensible reason he had propensity to commit similar offences.
Sikhala detention has all but cost him his political career as he has not been able to attend parliament since his arrest and may not be part of the 2023 election candidates.
The politician has also lost potential earnings from his job as a lawyer.
Sikhala was on May 3 this year convicted for the crime of obstructing the course of justice and remains in custody for two other charges of incitement to commit violence and disorderly conduct.
“The conviction and sentencing of Job Sikhala is a travesty of justice and a shocking demonstration of the growing crackdown on peaceful dissent, especially on opposition leaders and party members in Zimbabwe,” said Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa.
Sikhala will go down as the second opposition lawmaker to endure lengthy imprisonment after founding MDC MP for Chimanimani Roy Bennett was jailed one year for bashing then justice minister Patrick Chinamasa in house bust-up back in 2004.
The incident came after a heated debate during which Chinamasa described Bennett’s white ancestors as “rapists”, “murderers” and “thieves” who stole black-owned land.
Bennett was jailed at the behest of then Speaker of parliament, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is now Zimbabwe’s president.
Mnangagwa banned the courts from hearing his application to have the sentence set aside insisting the matter should be concluded in terms of parliamentary procedures which insulated the house from judicial scrutiny.
Coincidentally, Sikhala has taken the punitive punishment under Mnangagwa.