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Over 50 000 Zimbos sign petition demanding release of Sikhala, others

A petition demanding the unconditional release of jailed opposition MPs Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole and 14 residents of Nyatsime has now been signed by more than 50 000 Zimbabweans.

The intention of the organisers is to submit it to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in order to pressure him to act and ensure his critics are free.

The two MPs and 14 activists have spent more than 100 days incarcerated at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison over what their party the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) describes as trumped up charges of inciting public violence at the funeral wake of murdered CCC activist Moreblessing Ali.

They were denied bail by the courts more than four times with magistrates and judges claiming that they had a propensity of committing similar crimes. This is despite the fact that they have never been convicted before.

Prominent Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembwa and scholars, Ibbo Mandaza, Tony Reeler, Philani Zamchiya, politician Simba Makoni among other prominent activists created an online petition demanding the release of Sikhala and his colleagues.

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“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.”

During the time of writing, 50 400 people had signed the petition, making it one of the most signed applications in the history of Zimbabwe.