Zimbabwe: Detention of Sikhala and Sithole is “unjust and abusive”

The continued arbitrary detention of opposition leader and Member of Parliament Job Sikhala and MP Godfrey Sithole reveals the politicised justice system in Zimbabwe, Amnesty International said today, as 100 days have passed since their incarceration.

Lucia Masuka, Executive Director of Amnesty International Zimbabwe, said: “The ongoing arbitrary detention of Sikhala and Sithole is unjust and abusive. It has caused unspeakable emotional distress to them and their families.“ adding “The continued incarceration is a travesty of justice – they are victims of a government hell-bent on silencing opposition voices. Sikhala and Sithole must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Background of their arrest

Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole, two parliamentarians from Zimbabwe were detained in June on suspicion of inciting riots, they have been denied bail again after a magistrate sitting in a Harare court concluded that nothing had changed.

After their initial bail request was denied, Sithole and his colleague filed an application for bail based on new circumstances.

Nothing has been shown to the court to demonstrate that the issues for which the two had first been denied bail had been resolved, according to Magistrate Feresi Chakanyuka. The passage of time cannot be a defence for releasing someone on bail.

On June 14, Sikhala and Sithole were detained in connection with a speech he is accused of making over the murder of CCC activist Moreblessing Ali, whose dismembered body was discovered in a well 18 days after her disappearance.

The chief magistrate, Faith Mushure, decided that the two were likely to commit new crimes and refused to grant them bail. Despite being detained more than 67 times over the past 20 years, Sikhala has never been found guilty.

The two petitioned the High court after being granted bail, but it rejected their appeal on the same reasons. They then returned to the lower court to request bail based on their new situation. Beatrice Mtetwa, their attorney, claimed that the State had no proof connecting the two to the alleged crime.

The National Prosecuting Authority has so far refused to comply with the attorney’s request for the release of the footage constituting the offence.