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‘Police make Sikhala sleep in same cell with COVID-19 suspect’

MDC-Alliance vice chairperson Job Sikhala and political activist Hopewell Chin’ono yesterday separately appeared in court for allegedly publishing falsehoods, with Sikhala’s lawyers complaining that their client was locked up all night in the same cell with a COVID-19 suspect without any fumigation.

The charges emanate from an incident where a police officer was falsely acused of beating to death a nine-month-old baby with a baton in Harare. The State insists that the child is alive and was never beaten by a batton stick, hence the need charge Sikhala and Chin’ono.

Yesterday, Sikhala who was arrested on Friday, challenged his placement on remand when he appeared before magistrate Mr Ngoni Nduna.

Through his legal team led by Mr Jeremiah Bamu, Sikhala told the court that the State wanted to charge him with a law that did not exist in the country.

Mr Bamu is appearing for Sikhala along with Harrison Nkomo and Paidamoyo Saurombe.

Although he later withdrew the submissions, Sikhala complained over the manner he was arrested on Saturday.

He told the court that the police arrested him at Harare Magistrates’ Court where he wanted to represent activist Chin’ono,with whom they now face similar charges. Sikhala claimed that his arrest was meant to force him to recuse himself from representing Chin’ono.

“The arrest and detention of accused was outrightly callous on the part of police. It also has the chilling effect of undermining and threatening the legal profession.

“The accused attended to CID Law and Order as part of a legal team representing Hopewell (Chin’ono) who is appearing on same charges. The police neglected their duties and needlessly deprived the accused of his liberty. They wanted accused to recuse himself from representing Hopewell,” said Mr Bamu.

He said police placed him in the same cell in which Chin’ono was detained, without fumigation, despite reports that he was a COVID-19 suspected case.

The State led Mrs Constance Ngombengombe alleges that between January 5 and 7 this year, Sikhala published or communicated to the public through his Facebook account, a statement which is materially false.

Sikhala allegedly wrote: “This monstrosity in our country must end. People are already suffering through a myriad of problems and you just take a baton stick and kill a nine months’ (old) child. We have reached a boiling point. This year igore rezvimbokoma (this is a year for fights) wait and see.”

By posting the statement, it is alleged Sikhala intended to incite or promote public disorder and violence thereby endangering public safety.

Meanwhile, Chin’ono is facing similar allegations, is also challenging his placement on remand on the same grounds.

Sikhala and Chin’ono were remanded in custody to today when they are expected to continue with their applications for challenging their placement on remand. 🔺

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