Harare magistrate Vongai Guriro Muchuchuti has rejected an application for release by Job Sikhala, a detained activist from the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).
In her ruling, the magistrate stated that Sikhala had a case to answer based on evidence, including a video clip where he was present during alleged public incitement, NewsDay reported. The magistrate emphasised that the court carefully evaluated the witness testimony and found it illogical to argue that Sikhala’s remarks in the video were not intended to incite public violence.
Additionally, the ruling stated that it was evident that Sikhala appeared in the video and that the voice belonged to him. Sikhala was represented by Harrison Nkomo and Jeremiah Bhamu during the proceedings.
Some context: On August 21, 2020, Sikhala was arrested by the police. The allegations against him include inciting people to commit public violence by joining a foiled protest march intended to express dissatisfaction with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
The police also charged Sikhala with inciting public violence as an alternative charge. It is claimed that between May and July 2020, the former Zengeza West legislator incited people to engage in demonstrations that would lead to violence and disrupt peace through video clips with violent messages. The court was informed that Sikhala even called upon Zimbabweans residing outside the country to participate in the protest scheduled for July 31, 2020.
The foiled protests were meant to express discontent with corruption, misgovernance, and the exploitation of national resources by the political elite. The demonstrations received support from various stakeholders, including political parties.
Jacob Ngarivhume, the leader of Transform Zimbabwe and the main organizer of the protests, was arrested in August 2020 on charges of inciting public violence. In April 2023, he was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison, following his conviction for inciting public violence. The trial lasted almost three years, and Harare magistrate Feresi Chakanyuka handed down a sentence of 48 months, with 12 months conditionally suspended, resulting in an effective three-year imprisonment.
Journalist Hopewell Chon’ono was also arrested on July 20, 2020, on charges of inciting public violence due to his support for anti-corruption protests through social media.
Due to fear of government retaliation, several political activists went into hiding, as they were accused of planning the protests. The government labelled the foiled demonstrations as an insurrection and referred to the organizers as “terrorists.”