Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Sikhala arrested over Mugabe office demo

By Tichaona Sibanda

HARARE- MDC-99 leader Job Sikhala was arrested by police on Tuesday a day after he had led a small protest march of about 10 people, calling on Zimbabweans to stage Egyptian or Tunisian style revolutions against Robert Mugabe.

Mega-phone politics: Job Sikhala addresses rally in Masvingo
Mega-phone politics: Job Sikhala addresses rally in Masvingo

The Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings drove long term dictators Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak out of office. The militant and outspoken former University of Zimbabwe student leader led a group of his party followers in marching to Munhumutapa building (Mugabe’s office) waving placards that denounced Mugabe.

Some of the placards described the ageing Mugabe as a tyrant and a dictator. Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us Sikhala and his group marched from the nearby first street to Mugabe’s offices without any police interference.

‘I think they took the authorities by surprise. But when they got to Munhumutapa the group, including Sikhala just dropped their placards and fled. Many of them are still in hiding.

Munhumutapa building (Mugabe’s office)
Munhumutapa building (Mugabe’s office)

‘Police followed up on Sikhala at his Chitungwiza home on Monday night and failed to locate him. However they left a clear message they meant business when they assaulted his teenage son and harassed his wife and family,’ Muchemwa said.

It is believed Sikhala was only arrested after police received a tip-off of about where he was hiding. Muchemwa said police indicated they want to charge him with treason, which carries the death sentence in Zimbabwe.

He was being held at the Harare Central Police station, but was released on Tuesday evening after being made to sign a police ‘warned and cautioned’ statement. The MDC-99 has since last week been using social media forums to urge Zimbabweans to demonstrate against the unity government, saying it was being abused by ZANU PF to gain legitimacy.

‘The mass demonstrations were set for Wednesday but with Sikhala arrest and release it was not clear if there are people out there who will lead the protests,’ Muchemwa said.

In February this year, the history graduate from the UZ was severely beaten and tortured in police custody as part of a wider plan to prevent him and others from participating in planned anti-government at the start of the North Africa revolts.

Word had reached the police that Sikhala was planning to stage similar protests to remove Mugabe from power through force. The state case against him was dismissed by a magistrate for lack of evidence.

Before that in 2000, when he was still an MDC MP for St Mary’s, Sikhala endured severe torture together with friend and human rights lawyer, Gabriel Shumba, now living in exile. Both men were accused of undermining Mugabe and planning to oust him from power.

They were severely and cruelly tortured for long periods by state agents. It appears these beatings have hardened Sikhala’s stance against Mugabe. In a September 2009 interview with SW Radio Africa, Sikhala urged the international community not to lift targeted sanctions against Mugabe until ‘the day he dies.’

‘Only when he is buried in Kutama (Mugabe’s rural home) can the western world consider removing sanctions against him. Mugabe must die isolated if he doesn’t want to reform.

‘People can reform – even the evil Satan had the capacity to reform. So the ball is in Mugabe’s court, if he fails to change he must be ostracized until his very last day on this universe,’ said Sikhala. SW Radio Africa