By Mary Taruvinga
MDC Alliance vice-chairperson Job Sikhala was Wednesday formally placed on remand facing charges of inciting the public to commit violence.
This follows his application challenging placement on prison was dismissed by a Harare magistrate.
Sikhala, through his lawyer, Eric Matinenga had argued the allegations brought by the state against him did not constitute a criminal offence since he was only exercising his constitutional rights.
However, Magistrate Lazini Ncube said there was reasonable suspicion the opposition politician committed a criminal offence because there could have been turmoil in the country following his utterances.
Sikhala was arrested last Friday on charges he had incited the public to cause violence ahead of the foiled 31 July anti-corruption protests.
“In analysis, words communicated by the accused do not need any special interpretation. The defence is not arguing that he did not utter the words, but that he exercised his right to freedom of speech,” the magistrate said in his ruling.
“There is no doubt that the words depict a violent combat person. Inciting others to go to war means you are calling for violence. If proved at trial, the words uttered by Mr Sikhala amount to a criminal offence.”
Ncube said Sikhala should have realised that there was a real risk of violence in the country.
“Against that background, it is this court’s finding that the facts and allegations outlined by the state disclose an offence. There was no attempt by the defence to disassociate the accused from the utterances and I have no doubt that the state, in this case, has managed to present its case.
“Clearly the production of evidence in the form of videos is not a requirement. There is reasonable suspicion that the accused committed the offence and, therefore, be placed on remand on charges preferred against him,” he ruled.
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Transform Zimbabwe president Jacob Ngarivhume, are also in remand prison facing the same charges. They were arrested last month and their bid for freedom has been denied by the courts several times.
Meanwhile, another lawyer for Sikhala, Harrison Nkomo said the defence team was not comfortable with the politician eating prison food considering his previous complaints that he was threatened with death by the officer-in-charge of Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
Nkomo asked the court to issue an order compelling the prison officers to allow Sikhala’s family to bring him food, water, beverages and medication.
The magistrate upheld the request.
Sikhala will be back in court Thursday to make a formal application for bail.