Harare (New Ziana) – Harare magistrate, Lanzini Ncube will on Wednesday deliver judgement on opposition MDC- Alliance deputy national chairman Job Sikhala’s application in which he is challenging his arrest over charges of inciting public violence.
Sikhala was arrested last Friday after almost a month on the run and stands accused 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.
But, Sikhala is seeking the dismissal of the charges, arguing that his alleged statements do not constitute a crime.
“We continued with submissions challenging placement on remand and after all submissions were made, the matter was rolled over to tomorrow (Wednesday) at 14:30 for a ruling. What we were placing before the court as an argument is that what is alleged against Mr Sikhala does not amount to an offence at all,” his lawyer Jeremiah Bhamu said.
Earlier, his lawyer had told the court that Sikhala’s statements were mere political banter.
“Speaking out cannot be by any means interpreted as inciting violence. Political bantering using the words ‘fight’ and ‘war’ does not constitute inciting violence.”
Prosecutor Garudzo Ziyadhuma however argued that Sikhala had urged Zimbabweans to commit violence.
For example, he said Sikhala in some of his videos shared on social media had urged Zimbabweans to besiege the country’s diplomatic missions.
“He said he is not afraid meaning that he was taking a confrontational approach. We do not dispute that citizens have rights, but they should be exercised within the law by also safeguarding other people’s rights.”
Sikhala 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 magistrate 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.