…Sikhala remains defiant in face of subversion charges
…‘I definitely want ED to go before 2023’
MDC national vice chairperson and Member of Parliament for Zengeza West, Job Sikhala has described his ongoing trial at the High Court on subversion charges as a persecution of democracy, saying the State should instead prefer the charges on some Zanu PF members who have made controversial statements in the past.
Speaking to TellZim News during an exclusive interview a day before his appearance before Justice Garainesu Mawadze on Monday, January 03, Sikhala criticised what he implied to be selective application of the law and a crackdown on free speech.
“You remember what Josaya Hungwe said while addressing a Masvingo Zanu PF Provincial Coordinating Committee, when he said that Mnangagwa is prepared to use the guns to shoot anybody if they are not going vote for him.
“We heard Matemadanda saying several times that we are going to use the soldiers and everybody to kill everyone if they you are not going to vote for Zanu PF. These are the people who are treasonous against our people of Zimbabwe not a statement that I said Mnanagwa must go before 2023,” said Sikhala.
Victor Matemadanda is the Zanu PF secretary for the commissariat in the party’s politburo and he is also the Deputy Minister of Defence.
Josaya Hungwe is a veteran party member and has served in many portfolios since independence, and he still sits in the politburo.
“Even if I could have said that Mnanagwa must go before 2023, that’s my democratic right. And I truly want him to go before 2023 because he has destroyed this country, our people are suffering, the economy is so downtrodden that every citizen you meet on the streets is angry and shocked by how the country has been run since the coup. You would see the cluelessness of the people who have taken over control of our country. So people have got the right to say, ‘you have failed; our aspirations are being destroyed, the dreams of several generations are being destroyed by these people’. So I want him to go!” said Sikhala.
Asked on whether he acknowledged that free speech came with limitations and immense responsibilities at law, Sikhala said the statements he is alleged to have made harmed nobody.
“It has no limitations as long as it doesn’t harm anyone. A statement at a rally does not harm anyone. Did it harm anyone, if you know? People must be able to understand the concept of freedom of expression as provided for in our Constitution. Your actions must be able to harm someone. My statements at the rally did not harm anyone.
“They blew it out of context and the issue is that it has now grown out of order, it has now become an international issue and people are laughing at this government that they are trying to persecute an opponent of the government on an issue that did not harm anyone. There are people who have done and said worse words,” he said.
Sikhala is being charged for a statement he is alleged to have said in 2019 while addressing a campaign rally at Mandadzaka ahead of a Bikita Rural District Council (RDC) Ward 31 by-election.
The State has interpreted the statement to mean the tough-talking senior MDC member was advocating for violence and the unconstitutional overthrow of President Emmerson Mnangagwa before the 2023 general elections.
“The stupidity of it all emanates from the just bringing an audio or a video of 57 seconds of a rally which I addressed for two hours. When I took the podium, I addressed for two hours. They are depending on a video which they downloaded from one Jones Musara’s (Twitter account) – a Zanu PF activist based in Toronto, Canada, which they are now trying to use as primary evidence in court. However, the video is only 57 seconds.
“I cannot discuss the merits of the case as that is sub-judice so I will depend on what is already in the public domain as contained in their indictment papers. The first thing you must understand at law, in terms of Section 381 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence (Amendment) Act, where documentary evidence is being produced in court, the author and originator of that document must come with it to court and tell the court how they got that evidence. So we are also interested to know how a Zanu PF activist based in Cananda, in Toronto, could have taken a video in a countryside village in Mandadzaka,” he said.
Sikhala said it was very difficult if not impossible to prove that a video that was downloaded on Twitter is fully authentic and was not altered in any way.
“We wonder whether he used drone satellite to take that video. It is very clear in their indictment papers that they are saying they downloaded the video from the Twitter account of Jones Musara. It’s a surprise that the State is depending their evidence on a video downloaded from Twitter. We are going to be very keen to see Jones Musara coming to court and testify on where he took the video and whether he was present during the period of the rally,” he said.
Sikhala said the charges amounted to a persecution of democracy and a crackdown on free speech by an authoritarian ruling elite.
“The other issue you would also have to understand is that no matter the people’s thinking, to say that it (what he is alleged to have said) is reckless, this is the a democratic society we want to build in our country. The people of Zimbabwe must be able to take to task the people who purport to govern them. So the moment we allow the leaders to go after the opposition and opponents based on what they say against them on public platforms shows utter desperation,” Sikhala said.
On prospects of getting a fair trial in face of many reports and complaints of a compromised judiciary, Sikhala said it can only be his hope that he will receive a fair trial.
“The right to a fair trial is one of the fundamental cornerstones of our new Constitution. It’s provided for in terms of Section 69 of the Constitution. It clearly states that every citizen in our country is entitled to a fair trial. And the right to a fair trial is not only one of those rights in our Constitution, but is one of those unlimited rights in the Constitution to say that no one who can abrogate against the principle of a fair trial. And my expectation as a legal practitioner and lawyer is that I am going to be given a fair trial as provided for by the Constitution.
“So the right to a fair trial is one of the fundamental rights that must be observed by every State that believes in constitutionalism, the rule of law, democracy and good governance. And this is my expectation as a legal practitioner in this country and also as a citizen that I am going to get a fair trial,” he said.
The integrity of the country’s judiciary recently came into further question after Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, in his bitter divorce battle with his estranged wife Mary, appealed to the Supreme Court, complaining that the High Court, which is supervised by Judge President George Chiweshe, was possibly biased against him when it awarded Marry custody of their three children.