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Mnangagwa looks the other way on Job Sikhala petition

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has ignored a petition by Zimbabweans over the incarceration of Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) interim vice-chairperson and Zengeza West legislator Job Sikhala.

Sikhala, St Mary’s Member of the House of Assembly Godfrey Sithole, together with 14 CCC party activists, were arrested in June this year and have been languishing in remand prison ahead of trial.

However, a petition signed by several Zimbabweans, including entrepreneurs Strive Masiyiwa and Mutumwa Mawere, has been ignored by the government, which insists it does not interfere with judicial processes.

Some of the signatories include prominent and former world number one golfer Nick Price, veteran journalists Geoffrey Nyarota and Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) chairperson Trevor Ncube, award winning author Tsitsi Dangarembga, musician Thomas Mapfumo and leading sports personalities such as Henry Olonga.

Sikhala and Sithole have been detained since June 14 on charges of inciting violence following violent skirmishes at the funeral of Moreblessing Ali in Nyatsime, Chitungwiza.

The courts have on several occasions turned down their bail applications, with Sikhala being accused of being an unrepentant offender capable of inciting violence.

In the petition handed to the Office of the President and Cabinet on Friday last week, the petitioners demanded Mnangagwa to act on perceived selective application of the law at the courts and their failure to uphold the rule of law.

By yesterday, more than 12 000 people had signed the petition.

However, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services secretary Ndabaningi Mangwana said Mnangagwa “respected separation of powers” and would not interfere with the courts.

Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba was not reachable at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, top human rights lawyer Musa Kika said it was the duty of Mnangagwa to restore sanity in the judiciary system to end violations of the constitution.

“In our petition, we are not asking President Mnangagwa to call the judiciary and have Sikhala released. We are very aware of the issue of separation of powers.

“What we are requesting the President to do is to take note of the unusual prevailing situation in the manner in which the justice system is being delivered,” Kika said.

“The President has constitutional powers to make sure that every organ that is functioning is upholding the constitution. If the courts and the justice system stops doing what is required by the constitution, the President cannot remain quiet. That is why we have the Minister of Justice, overseeing the justice system. And we are saying to the President; please look into this issue,” Kika added.

He said Mnangagwa could institute an inquiry into what is happening in Zimbabwe’s judiciary system.

“We are aware there is judiciary interference. Judges and prosecutors are told what to do and we know that. Our petition is to say, ‘Mr President, this is happening and you should act to end the constitutional violations’,” he said.

Political analyst Eldred Masunungure said from a constitutional point of view, the petition was warranted.

“The message is very clear that there should be some form of action from the authorities. It is clear that the legislators are being persecuted for political reasons. We have had Zanu PF legislators who have been arrested for serious offences but have been granted bail.

“So these two MPs and 14 activists are being victimised for their political affiliation.  What has pushed people to come up with this petition is that there is a suspicion of interference with the law,” Masunungure said.

He said the petitioners were not demanding Mnangagwa to directly tell the court how to deal with the matter.

“The President should direct everyone involved in the judiciary system to abide by the constitution and be open-minded when dealing with the case.

“This will also help all the matters that will be brought before the courts. Each case should be dealt with on its own merit outside any form of interference,” he added.

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