Harare (New Ziana) – Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance deputy national chairman Job Sikhala was due in court again on Tuesday where he is seeking the dismissal of the charges of inciting public violence preferred against him for his alleged role in last month’s failed protests.
The State accuses him and other opposition activists of mobilising the public, through social media posts, to take part in the protests that had been planned for July 31 inspite of a government ban.
The authorities, fearing violence as happened in the past in such opposition protests, and more importantly, the likelihood of the spread of Covid-19 during the marches, banned the demonstrations.
The protests were ostensibly intended to register public displeasure over the government’s handling of the economy, but the authorities, citing intelligence indicating foreign involvement, saw them as cover for yet another opposition attempt to unseat constitutional order in the country.
Sikhala was arrested last Friday after almost a month on the run, and joins two other political activists – Hopewell Chino’no and Jacob Ngarivhume – who were nabbed earlier and also appearing in court on the same charges.
In the court, Sikhala is arguing that his social media posts did not amount to public incitement, and therefore wants the charges to be dropped untested.
He has also raised the issue of safety and security in prison, both physical and health-related, after claiming receiving death threats, and dangers of contracting Covid-19 in the cells.
Often full of drama, Sikhala has claimed his life was in imminent danger in prison, prompting presiding Harare magistrate Lanzini Ncube on Monday to order the fumigation of the holding cells at Chikurubi Prison to avert the danger Covid-19 posed to the opposition politician and other inmates.
Yet, ironically, in allegedly calling for the protest marches, Sikhala was blind to the health risks the pandemic could have posed to the protesters, which was one of the reasons the government gave in banning the demonstrations.
The protests, however, flopped nationwide, with only a few one-man stunts staged in various parts of the country.