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Petition demanding release of Sikhala and others reaches 27k signatures

A petition demanding the unconditional release of jailed opposition MPs Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole and 14 residents of Nyatsime is becoming one of the most signed applications in the history of Zimbabwe as it has so far garnered more than 27 000 signatures across the world.

Sikhala and his colleagues have spent more than 90 days jailed at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison over what the party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) describe as trumped up charges of inciting public violence.

They were arrested on June 14 at the funeral wake of murdered CCC activist Moreblessing Ali. The State accuses them of calling for violence to avenge the death of Ali whose body was found in pieces in a disused well in Nyatsime.

A member of Zanu-PF Pius Jamba was arrested as the key suspect in the case before being controversially granted bail.

Police have arrested Pius Jamba, the prime suspect in the abduction and subsequent murder of opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) member Moreblessing Ali.
Police arrested Pius Jamba, the prime suspect in the abduction and subsequent murder of opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) member Moreblessing Ali.

Sikhala, Sithole and the 14 activists have been denied bail several times with judges and magistrates claiming they had a propensity of committing similar crimes. But the opposition politicians have never been convicted before for the charges they are facing.

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Against this background, prominent Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembwa and scholars, Ibbo Mandaza, Tony Reeler, Philani Zamchiya, politician Simba Makoni among other prominent activists originated a petition to submit to President Emmerson Mnangagwa demanding the unconditional release of Sikhala and others.

“We petition Your Excellency to bring to your consideration, a most unusual situation resulting 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,” read part of the statement accompanying the petition.

“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.”

Meanwhile, during the time of writing, 27 000 people had signed an application demanding freedom of the incarcerated activists. The organisers are targeting 35 000 signatures.