By Reason Razao
The continued incarceration of opposition Citizens Coalition for Change member Job Sikhala has dented Zimbabwe’s judicial system, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa, Khanyo Farisè, has said.
Commenting on Sikhala’s 500 days in prison without trial, Farisè said the move by the State exemplifies how authorities are abusing the courts to silence opposition leaders.
Human rights watchdogs have condemned Sikhala’s pretrial detention while calling for the government to uphold the constitution.
“Job Sikhala’s prolonged incarceration while he awaits trial is a gross miscarriage of justice and an indictment of Zimbabwe’s judicial system,” said Farisè.
“It exemplifies how authorities are abusing the courts to silence opposition leaders, human rights defenders, activists, journalists and other critical dissenting voices.”
Farisè called on the authorities to desist from lawfare to silence critics.
“Authorities must stop weaponizing the law to target opposition figures and ordinary citizens. The relentless harassment and intimidation of activists and human rights defenders via the courts must end.
“Everyone should be able to exercise their freedom of expression without any fear of reprisals,” the director said.
According to the constitution, every Zimbabwean has the right to a fair trial.
“The right to a fair trial is recognised internationally as a fundamental human right and Zimbabwean authorities are required to respect it.
“We call for his immediate and unconditional release. The international community must strongly condemn his continued incarceration.”
Sikhala was arrested for obstruction of justice in June 2022, before he was convicted almost a year later.
He was given a suspended six-month sentence with an option of paying US$ 600 or spending six months in jail.
Following his conviction and suspended sentence, Sikhala has been kept in prison pending a trial for two other charges of incitement to commit violence and disorderly conduct.
His bail application has been denied multiple times.
His trial for incitement started on 3 May 2023 and was postponed to 27 October 2023.
He has been held at Chikurubi Maximum-security prison in the capital Harare since June 2022.