PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa will not intervene in the opposition legislators Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole’s case, a government official has said.
Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said Mnangagwa would not intervene because he “respected separation of powers” between the Judiciary and the Executive.
The two lawmakers have been in remand prison since June facing charges of incitement to violence.
“The President cannot go into conflict with the courts. He respects the principle of separation of powers. The courts themselves are not citing political reasons for their decisions but purely legal ones,” Mangwana posted on Twitter.
Mangwana was not reachable on his mobile phone despite several efforts.
Sikhala and Sithole were arrested in June and charged with incitement to violence alongside 13 other opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party activists following violence at the funeral wake of murdered opposition activist Moreblessing Ali in Nyatsime, Chitungwiza.
Last week, Zimbabweans locally and abroad petitioned Mnangagwa demanding his intervention to end the “political” persecution of Sikhala, Sithole and the 13 party activists.
In a petition handed over to Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda on Friday, the petitioners pleaded with Mnangagwa to act on perceived selective application of the law at the courts and their failure to uphold the rule of law over the Sikhala, Sithole and Nyatsime residents’ cases.
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Ironically, in 2018, Mnangagwa said he intervened to have senior opposition party member Tendai Biti, who had been arrested on charges of inciting public violence, released on bail without opposition from the State.
“Tendai Biti was released earlier today following my intervention,” Mnangagwa said then.
“At such a crucial time in the history of the new Zimbabwe, nothing is more important than unity, peace and dialogue.”
Biti was being charged with stoking 2018 post-election violence that saw six civilians being shot dead by State security agents.
At the time Biti, whose People’s Democratic Party had formed an election alliance with then Nelson Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change, sought asylum in Zambia, but was deported.
He was also charged with falsely and unlawfully announcing results of the July 30 election, which Chamisa rejected as fraudulent.
Biti faced up to 10 years in jail, a fine or both in the event he was convicted.
The opposition and critics have said the CCC party members were being persecuted on political grounds, with government allegedly interfering with the courts to ensure their continued incarceration.
In their petition, initiated by the Southern Africa Political Economy Series and signed by 166 Zimbabweans locally and abroad, the petitioners said Mnangagwa had the power to intervene.
Signatories to the petition include high-profile personalities such as business tycoon Strive Masiyiwa, Alpha Media Holdings board chair Trevor Ncube, human rights’ activist Musa Kika, journalists Geoffrey Nyarota and Hopewell Chin’ono, award-winning author Tsitsi Dangarembga, musician Thomas Mapfumo, sports personalities such as Henry Olonga and human rights defenders, among others.
Sapes Trust director Ibbo Mandaza, who initiated the petition, said: “Our petition is not necessarily based on the Biti precedent; it is being cited by citizens who support our petition, as evidence, in their view, that he could do the same for Sikhala and his Nyatsime group.
“Our petition is based on the evidence that due processes for bail have been ignored when others, including a Member of Parliament, are being afforded relief.”
The courts have on several occasions turned down their bail applications, with Sikhala being accused of being an “unrepentant repeat offender” capable of inciting violence.