Democracy is on trial, not Job Sikhala
By Tawanda Majoni
In three months’ time, Job Sikhala would have clocked a full year in jail for allegedly inciting public violence and attempting to defeat the course of justice.
They say, among other things, he caused to be posted a video in which he was urging people to protest against the government using violent means.
When you see the video, predictably, there doesn’t seem to be the slightest evidence to support the “violent means” part of it.
That taken, you also get worried—as Job and his lawyers have already argued—that there is nothing illegal about urging people to protest.
The constitution of Zimbabwe allows you to do that even in your sleep.
Not even the dumbest person—and we have lots of such here, right to the top—will deny that Job’s case is a political one.
He is a political prisoner without the rights of a political prisoner. But this is Zimbabwe. Everything and anything goes.
For any or no reason. Those that insist that Job’s case is a criminal case are doing so for their own reasons, not the right ones.
This other day, in January, a Harare magistrate, Marewanazvo Gofa, was telling an unbelievable lie. That was when Job, through his lawyers, asked to have his trial streamed live.
The magistrate waved him off without batting an eyelid. She claimed that there were no good grounds for Job’s trial to be live-streamed because it was of no public interest.
Rather, the case was a “private concern”.
That’s rubbish, of course.
There is nothing private about inciting public violence.
Job is not being accused of inciting his dog to bite his wife in the bedroom.
Instead, he is being accused of inciting Zimbabweans, who easily become a public matter, to protest against the government, which is a public thing.
While Gofa, under the same breath, acknowledged that Job as an MP, had some 16 000 supporters going by the official results of the 2018 elections, the truth is that he and his case are a matter of interest to millions of Zimbabweans and beyond.
In any case, he is the vice chair of a party, CCC, with millions of followers.
In essence, therefore, Gofa must know that Job’s case cannot be confined to his bedroom as a “private matter”.
Insisting on such nonsense makes her an accomplice in the abuse of the law that we have seen regarding the Job case and, of course, many, many others.
The point here is, we must not read Job’s trial—or lack of it as it were—as just one of those cases. It is a political matter.
That’s why the MP has spent such a long time in jail. It’s mainly meant to persecute him for his political “sins” by pretending to be applying the law.
What’s quite unsettling is that Job is facing continued abandonment, particularly by his own party, the CCC.
The longer he stays in prison, the more forgotten he becomes. It’s futile to spend most of your energy on just condemning the Zanu PF government.
What they are doing to Job is nothing new, really.
They started taking people in on flimsy grounds as way back as the early days of independence.
Remember what they did with Lookout Masuku, Dumiso Dabengwa and others back then?
The persecutions have continued over the decades. They employ the same tactics that were used on them by the Smith regime.
The energy and noise must go towards the alternative agencies of change, particularly the opposition.
Particularly, in Job’s case, the CCC.
Yeah, Nelson Chamisa was recently whining about Job’s persecution through law-fare.
The problem is that he hardly went beyond a single sentence on that.
He and his party have not done enough to ensure that real law and justice apply in Job’s case.
Have a look. As already said, Job’s persecution is political persecution that requires a political solution.
Do you remember what happened way back in 1972, when the Pearce Commission came to Zimbabwe?
One of the key reasons why the commission was shown the middle finger by the majority of blacks when it tried to legitimise a sham apartheid constitution favouring Ian Smith and his racist musketeers was that the regime was jailing the leaders of the liberation struggle.
There is no reason why today’s opposition, particularly CCC, cannot do the same thing.
I know, Chamisa is afraid that if they pressure for mass protests, that would give the current administration a good excuse to clamp down on the opposition and its critics.
He could be right, seeing as it is how they reacted to the final push in 2003 and the August 1 2018 protests, among others.
The line between caution and cowardice is very thin, though.
But then, who says mass protests are the only thing they can do?
The opposition can easily make a rallying cry around the continued incarceration of Job and even incorporate it into its 2023 election campaign strategy.
This is not to advocate for an opportunistic or selfish approach to election politics.
The truth is that the Job Sikhala case is not only a Job thing.
It is national, as much as it is about democracy.
It, in this sense, becomes a global symbol of political victimisation, which in itself is a nemesis of democracy.
What is happening to Job today will happen to Chamisa tomorrow.
It will happen to you and me too, if it hasn’t already happened.
It’s the abuse of the law and the judiciary to entrench the interests of the sitting regime and aid its political self-preservation.
So, it’s not about Job per se. It’s about Zimbabwean democracy, African political governance.
As it is, we are rattling towards elections.
The CCC can make a strategic demand.
Free Job now or there will be no elections.
Ultimately, it won’t be about Job as such. It’s the same thing as saying, free up the judiciary or there will be no elections.
The same thing as saying, no elections without accompanying democracy.
The opposition just needs to get out of this illusion that grassroots support will win them elections.
It hasn’t done so before and may not do so tomorrow.
The problem with the main opposition is that it has always used double standards when it comes to its own.
It was such a painful thing when Chamisa called people who protested on August 1 2018 “stupid”.
With just one miscued yap, he disowned the very people who were rallying behind him.
But there have been worse things even when Tsvangirai was still around and they were working as the united MDC.
I recall an incident when a group of women came to my office in 2013, complaining that they were being neglected by Harvest House.
The women, who remained opposition members and supporters, wanted the party to be exposed for its duplicity. These were women whose husbands had been killed, maimed or chased away from Zimbabwe during the 2008 madness.
These were women whose houses had been burnt down, livestock taken away and livelihoods destroyed.
Women who lived with permanent scars from the horrors of the 2018 political violence targeting the opposition by those that remain in power today.
I have talked to one of the women here. She told me that she was raped by two men, one in police uniform and the other in plainclothes, when they drove her away from her home in Epworth claiming to be taking her to a place where her husband who had campaigned as a councillor was found dead.
She gave birth to a daughter whose father both of them will never know, going by her account.
Yet, when these victims sought help from their party, they were repeatedly chased away or snubbed by the very people who still insist they are champions of change, justice and democracy.
And it rings a bell when you look at how they are neglecting Job.
For, when they neglect Job, they are also paying lip service to the fight for justice and democracy.
Tawanda Majoni writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org