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Sikhala challenges splitting of charges as trial starts; says being persecuted for representing slain activist’s family

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By Staff Reporter


OPPOSITION lawmaker Job Sikhala, currently locked up at Chikurubi Maximum Prison, on Monday pleaded not guilty when he appeared for trial before Harare magistrate Marewanazvo Gofa.

Sikhala is on pretrial incarceration following his arrest for allegedly inciting public violence and disturbing police investigations in the murder of Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) slain activist, Moreblessing Ali.

Prosecutors allege Sikhala incited the public to avenge the death of Ali and also interfered with police investigations.

Both charges are based on the same video which he is accused of publishing.

His trial on the second charge was scheduled to take off Monday but, through his lawyer,s, the legislator excepted to charges against him arguing that they do not disclose a criminal offence.

Sikhala also complained there was an unnecessary split of charges which are based on the same circumstances by the state.

His defence lawmaker said they were not given court papers as required by law.

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“He has only been furnished with a flash disk containing one video clip. The video clip relates to the second portion of the transcript as appears on his warned and cautioned statement. He has not been furnished with any video clip or other evidence supporting the first portion of the transcript as appears on the warned and cautioned statement,” said lead counsel Jeremiah Bamu.

Languishing in prison … CCC legislator Jacob Sikhala

“There is nowhere in the alleged video where the accused is shown addressing or supplying any information to the police. There is nowhere in the alleged utterances where the police are requested to act on any information that was so supplied or address so made.

“The charge sheet does not allege that the police acted on that information, or how such information was acted upon. The charge sheet does not allege how acting upon such information obstructed their investigations,” he said.

Bamu said in the event that the police acted on their own volition, then Sikhala cannot be held responsible for how the police choose to conduct themselves on any given matter.

“Accused has no control over police conduct. The video furnished to the accused does not support the charge alleged against him. In the circumstances, the accused will pray that the exception be upheld and that he be found not guilty and acquitted,” said the lawyer.

Denying the allegations, Sikhala said he never recorded or caused to be recorded or uploaded the controversial video.

“He did not circulate nor cause to be circulated any video as alleged. He will put the State to strict proof of these allegations. In the event that the State has no such proof, he will pray that these allegations be struck out from the charge sheet.

“He was not aware of any police investigations as alleged or at all. He was not aware that the police were on a manhunt for Pias Jamba as alleged or at all,” said Bamu.

Sikhala also denied the accuracy of the transcripts which were downloaded from a social media platform.

He said he was not furnished with sufficient details as to enable him to answer to the charge as required by section 70 (1) (b) of the Constitution.

The lawyers told the court their client has not been presented with adequate time and facilities to prepare a defence.

“The charge against him amounts to an improper splitting of charges in that the allegations against the accused pertaining to the alleged utterances in the video sought to be relied upon by the State are the same as the allegations in respect of which accused is standing trial under CRB ACC216-7/22

“The State cannot multiply charges for what in reality is one offence. The accused will contend that the charge leveled against him does not disclose an offence in that the State only alleges that accused intended to mislead police investigations but does not allege that there was actual obstruction.

“The section under which accused is charged criminalises actual obstruction and not potential obstruction,” said the lawyers.

“Accused will contend that he is only being victimised on account of being the appointed family lawyer of Moreblessing Ali.

“In the circumstances, the accused person will pray that a verdict of not guilty be returned in his favour and that he be acquitted of any wrongdoing,” Bamu said.

The magistrate is expected to hand down her ruling on his application on December 13.