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Job Sikhala: One Year Under Arbitrary Detention in My Oppressor’s Prison

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My dear Zimbabweans, Regional and Worldwide Friends!

The 14th of June 2023 marks the end of one full twelve-month cycle of my incarceration. It also marks the beginning of another cycle. I do not know how many more twelve-month cycles I shall endure in this dungeon. Only my oppressors know. I do not care at all. They can confine my physical being, but they can never confine my spirit. My resolve remains unshaken. I have not lost hope. I will never lose hope. I do not hope for justice in my own matters. Oppressors never serve justice. Oppressors have no shame.

I have hope, that one day, the spirit of Moreblessing Ali will finally find rest and be at peace. I have hope that one day the family of Moreblessing will be comforted. I have hope that one day, Zimbabwe will be counted among the family of progressive and democratic nations. The oppressor’s reign is nigh. For it is darkest when dawn draws near. When-ever the drum beats the loudest, it is about to burst.

My Arrest and Detention

The story of my arrest has been told countless times. My detractors have yarned so many tales and woven so many versions of why I was arrested and remain in detention. They have invented the biggest lie to cover their shame for jailing an innocent man. Lies have short legs. They claim that I violated a bail condition. What nonsense! If I did, what has stopped them from holding an inquiry in accordance with the law, to establish whether any bail condition was violated or not? What has stopped them, from bail estreatment in that matter in accordance with the law. They have not done so. They cannot do so! For, no bail condition was ever violated!

My dear Zimbabweans, Regional and Worldwide friends, it has often been said that there are two sides to every story. Today I tell you that that there are always three or more sides to any story. Oppressors have their own carefully crafted narrative that they harp on about. The victims have their narrative that is seldom spoken about. The world has its own narrative. The world narrative can never be uniform. It is either based on objectivity or driven by sheer prejudice and bias. I choose not to write my own story. I choose not to share my own narrative. I choose to leave it to posterity to judge me. I can only ask one thing of posterity; that when you do write of these events, as Othello [The Moor of Venice] beseeched in his dying speech, speak of me as I am, nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice.

I am but just a lawyer, jailed for representing his client’s interests and seeking justice for his murdered client’s family. I am an opposition lawmaker, jailed for criticizing the brutalities of the ruling regime. I am a simple farmer, who seeks not only to produce crops but, tend to the Zimbabwean fields to produce prosperity, justice, freedom and equality for all, not for the elite alone. This is the only crime that I know, and the only crime I accept as having committed.

The Allegations Against Me

I am facing a myriad of allegations. None of them hold any substance. I am no stranger to contrived allegations bearing no substance. I have been arrested for over 68 times now. Hitherto, I had never been convicted of any of the allegations brought to bear against me. When I raised this in one of my bail applications, I was accused of boasting that I had never been convicted for any of those offences and this was used as a pretext to deny me bail. I was not boasting. I was merely presenting facts as they stood. My oppressors felt hard hit, and they orchestrated a false conviction to blemish my hitherto untainted record.

That conviction is as strange as the allegations were. They said I obstructed the course of justice. They said I did so by recording and posting a video. They said the utterances in that video diverted police attention from pursuing their suspect to pursuing Zanu PF members. All their witnesses were police officers! None of them had evidence that I recorded any video. None of them had evidence that I posted any video. None of them could prove that I uttered any of the alleged statements. None of them proved that the police actually pursued any member of Zanu PF following the alleged utterances. None of them could prove that the murder suspect was not in fact aligned to Zanu PF.

Nonetheless, they convicted me. They did not need any evidence. They only needed to send a message. Unfortunately for them, I am hard of hearing if they want me to hear that there will be no justice for a slain woman, callously murdered in cold blood in the most horrendous fashion possible. Their message will never reach my ears. They need to seek a new audience. The only message I am getting, and capable of getting, is to never tire toiling for justice and freedom. It will come one day. The night is always long, but the morning will always bring joy.

My dear Zimbabweans, Regional and Worldwide Friends, when shame deserts a people, they behave in a strange way. My oppressors have no shame. They have no face. They have no trace of ubuntu in them – BUT – their days are numbered. For nothing lasts forever under the sun.

I am facing yet more allegations. I wish I could speak about them in better detail – but the matters are still pending in court. While the choreographed outcome is plain for all to see, I will abide by higher wisdom and refrain from commenting on matters that are still to be concluded.

I reiterate my innocence – but my innocence is clearly not enough to save me from the clutches of my oppressor’s jaws. I will abide by the belief that my oppressor’s are just like sandpaper, they will hurt and bruise me for the time being, but they will leave me polished and brighter as they become worthless, and worn out.

The Motivation for the Current Epistle

This epistle comes after a long time without me communicating with you. In that long period of non-communication, I have been hearing all the wonderful things you have been doing for me and my family. I stand in awe of the love and support that you have shown. I appreciate you all.

You have shown me the true meaning of love and solidarity. You have stood by me during a very long and trying period. You have not forsaken me. You have not deserted me. You have refused to pander to the whims of the oppressor. You have done so out of love. You have sacrificed a lot on my account.

You have made me appreciate once again that solidarity is a universal principle shared by a people with common love. It developed over centuries to fight against injustices perpetrated upon the innocent and those standing for a just cause. Doing nothing in the face of injustice is treachery to the human conscience. You have refused to betray the true human conscience.

Thank you Dearest Zimbabweans. Thank you Regional and Worldwide Friends!

I hear all about your implacable solidarity. God is watching these injustices. In His good time, He will restore what the locusts are eating.

My Reassurance

Let me reassure you, I will stand with the people even if it costs my freedom. I will stand with the people even if it costs my professional and political career. I will stand with the people even if it costs my blood. No one should be mistaken to think otherwise.

The dumb and punitive attempts by the authors of my misery to divide us through my persecution will not deliver their anticipated results. Chain me all you want. It won’t work. It will not work. I will neither tire nor slumber. I will never waive from speaking against injustice. I come from the people. I am one with the people. I will die with the people!

My Prison Conditions

There are hundreds of people who have visited me at my oppressor’s prison. They were left in shock and disbelief with the level of maltreatment that I go through. I am always shackled in chains like a terrorist even when I am shuffled to meet my visitors.

At one point the prison authorities failed to unlock the chains. They struggled in vain for over an hour. They had to call people from the armory who had to use a hammer and chisel, putting my leg on the hard cemented surface and started pounding on the leg irons until they broke.

My left leg sustained serious injuries and got swollen for weeks and when it started healing, my skin was peeling off. This is the kind of torture I am going through on a daily basis, it’s been a full 365 out of 365 days now.

At one point, I requested the Minister of Justice, Ziyambi Ziyambi, as the administrator of the Prisons Act to conduct a prison visit. He did not come. He is unbothered. I wanted to raise a few simple questions to him.

Why was I being ill-treated like this under his care?
Was he deriving satisfaction at the treatment prisoners, particularly political prisoners in Zimbabwe receive?
Why am I being inflicted pain on a daily basis?
Why am I always shackled in chains?
I have received information and intelligence of his intimate, active and direct involvement in all my cases. I would have wanted to ask him in person to confirm or rebut these. I also wanted to know whether this most gruesome torture of exposing me, to inhuman and degrading treatment gives them full satisfaction of sadism. He did not bother to come. He refused to be answerable to the people. I am told the people of Zvimba recently reminded him of who the true master is – the people – kudos to them for voting out a tyrant. More tyrants will fall by the way side if they refuse to respect and honor the people.

Shackling someone in chains because of being opposed to them is an anathema in the 21st century. In Zimbabwe, they still practice it, 43 years after independence!

Let them keep me in this prison for as long as they wish. They cannot mute the fundamental human rights issues arising out of my detention.

I have written to the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda to have the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the Senate Committee on Human Rights to come and see the shackling administered on me on a daily basis. I have also requested the International Red Cross Society and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to visit me and witness for themselves, the pain I am going through, the chains of torture I am shackled with. My question, dear friends and Zimbabweans, am I the biggest criminal in Zimbabwe to be treated worse than a terrorist?

New Cause for Concern

While shackled in solitary confinement, I received information that there are some university students who have been arrested on my account and are being denied bail. University students! They have been deprived of the opportunity to write their examinations. Their right to education hangs at peril.

All this is on account of what is alleged against them. They are alleged to have called for my release! This was done through some graffiti calling for my release which was allegedly spray painted on the walls of some buildings in Harare’s Central Business District.

That graffiti, has been termed malicious damage to property! For that, at least six university students are languishing in jail. All of them have been arrested, simply because they are part of the University of Zimbabwe Student Representative Council or Executive Members of the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union [ZINASU].

It has become that dangerous in Zimbabwe to call for my release. The full wrath of the State machinery will descend upon you. It would appear that the CID Law and Order Section no longer has any work to do except monitoring social media handles to ascertain what either I or people sympathetic to me say, and follow this up with arrests, malicious charges and refusal of bail.

That section of the police must simply be renamed the Job Sikhala and Sympathizers’ Arrest and Detention Police Department. Shame on them. Shame on those who rob students of their future by depriving them of their education.

Shame on those whose thirst vengeance makes them know no boundary and target university students. I pray for the release of these students. They have a future. They are the future.

Keep the Prayers Coming

To those who pray for me without ceasing, I say thank you. Thank you all for remembering me in your prayers. Nothing surpasses your supplications to the Almighty. Your prayers are being heard. Your prayers shall be answered much to the shame of my oppressors. Keep your prayers coming. Keep them flowing.

History has taught us that, the world awakened to the Jewish Holocaust, though long after Hitler had massacred 6 million Jews. The world came to the rescue when nearly a million innocent civilians, mainly of Tutsi origin had already been murdered in Rwanda.

The world is now a global village. It has always been. We have always been one people. The response may take long, but it will come. Many casualties may be experienced before the response comes, but it will come. Never lose hope.

Their silence on Moreblessing Ali’s murderers

I am today treated as the biggest criminal in Zimbabwe. You have constantly heard about my perceived crimes all year round. I have been brought to trial and am defending my innocence – BUT – I ask you today: What became of Moreblessing Ali’s murderer?

They tell us he confessed to his crime and made indications on how he killed and dismembered her. They have all the evidence they want, including a confession. They have made this public knowledge – BUT – what became of his trial? They arrested him on 16 June 2022 according to the information they made publicly available. Barely four days after my own incarceration. How far have they gone with his matter? Where are they? Why are they silent about it for a year now? Why are they obsessed with Job Sikhala and his perceived sympathizers?

Why should they rush to court and manufacture a conviction based on video clips shared on social entertainment sites like WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube – platforms created for social entertainment – and ignore the evidence of what they tell us to be a voluntary confession about the most gruesome murder of a woman in our lifetime? This is the criminal justice we have here in Zimbabwe, dear friends.

A criminal justice system where you are told that downloading a video from YouTube is the same as creating, generating or originating the video. It is public knowledge that I will never be granted bail. It is public knowledge that anyone arrested for showing or suspected of showing sympathy with me will never be granted bail.

It is common knowledge that the cases against me are choreographed by hidden hands meting out their political vendetta against me. My heart bleeds at the nasty turn our criminal justice system is taking. We used to be a pride among the nations.

Jurisprudence from Zimbabwe was quoted in many foreign jurisdictions in praise. We have now become a laughing stock and being quoted for purposes of ridicule. This too, shall pass. We shall once again be the torchbearers of an independent and progressive justice delivery system.

Appreciation of Legal Team

I am deeply indebted to my legal team for the excellent services they render. I am grateful for the privilege of having been represented by Zimbabwe’s finest legal minds in the form of Advocate Eric Matinenga, Advocate Thabani Mpofu, Beatrice Mtetwa, Alec Muchadehama, Harrison Nkomo, Blessing Nyamaropa, Jeremiah Bamu, Obey Shava, Tinomuda Shoko, Doug Coltart, Rutendo Muchenje, Paul Mutsatsa, Emmanuel Zellers Gumbo,Anna Muchena, Marian Tafadzwa Nyaruwanga and many other talented legal minds that have been part of my legal travails over the years.

I am also greatly indebted to my international team of lawyers, led by Bob Amsterdam and Maya Dagan for the sterling work they have done in representing me in line with the mandate I bestowed upon them. There are no sufficient superlatives that I can muster to thank my lawyers for their outstanding and splendid service to me, during the most difficult journey of my life.

Many may not know that the services they have rendered are largely without compensation. Many may not know of the many sacrifices they have made on my account. Many may not know how they have lost better paying clients as they continued, on an almost daily basis, to render me legal representation, most times without getting any form of compensation at all. Your dedication and fine representation leaves me speechless and draws tears down my cheeks. I salute you, and the love that you have bestowed on one of your own in this profession.

The burden of my children being orphaned during my lifetime, the challenges and difficulties I face while I am in my oppressors prison is too heavy to bear. You have never complained for a second in all these months of your dedicated service in my cases. I thank you.

I am a witness to your great performance in court, tearing apart the lies and falsehoods of my oppressors as was done by other lawyers in the past such as George Bizos, Herbert Chitepo, Vernon Derange and Bram Fischer among others.

In victory you have many friends but in failure you are an orphan. Friends flock to you in their multitudes when your sun shines on you and during your prosperity, but when trouble visits you, it comes with an exodus of friends.

Only those who stand with you in truth will continue standing by your side. Hypocrisy is part of human nature and it is a shame without bounce. My long stay in Chikurubi Maximum Prison has helped to sift the genuine from the hypocrites.

Looking into the Future

My dear Zimbabweans, Regional and Worldwide Friends!

Despite the circumstances I am currently in, we must always look into the future. We must never be defined by our situations, but define ourselves in every situation. We are together in the agonies of this moment. There is no fruitful journey that ever came easily in the history of mankind.

The bread that we enjoy is baked in a very hot oven. The diamonds, rubies, gold and other minerals that give us wealth are produced through blood and sweat. The challenges may seem insurmountable but be assured nowhere in life have tears and sorrows of many have gone unanswered. Our nation shall be a home of happiness where all of us shall enjoy the fruits in it in equality and fairness. They may plan to kill us, but it will not end well for the murderers.

Elections in Zimbabwe are beckoning. I yearn that they be free and fair. I pray that they be peaceful. Your time is at hand dear Zimbabweans. The time to vote for change. As Citizens we made a pact for change. We must remain true to the cause. I urge you to go and vote in your numbers.

I urge you to vote for the Citizens’ Coalition for Change. I urge you to restore Zimbabwe’s lost pride through your vote. We cannot endure another five years of soaring inflation. We cannot endure another five years of economic instability. We cannot endure another five years of injustice and oppression. We cannot endure another five years of what the oppressors in Zanu PF are only capable of offering – FAILURE. We are the jewel of Africa. We cannot allow Zanu PF to make us a failed state.

Salutations and Farewell

Dearest Zimbabweans, Regional and Worldwide Friends!

My travails are being chronicled. I have been chronicling each and every abuse I ever experienced at the hands of my oppressors. I am trying, in those chronicles, as much as is humanely possible, not to be too subjective and present on the first part, an entirely undiluted record of the proceedings against me, and where necessary, infuse my own commentary.

I plead with all of you to read it and come to your own conclusions. Read and decide for yourselves. You shall have the opportunity to read all the details of my travails.

Let me leave you for now. Let me leave with you with an extract of Nelson Mandela’s speech at the Rivonia Trial, which has largely moulded my philosophical outlook despite my travails: –

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

I love you all! Please pray for me and pray for a better Zimbabwe!

VOTE FOR THE CITIZENS COALITION FOR CHANGE

Yours, in chains

Job Wiwa Sikhala