By Nompumelelo Sibanda
HUMAN rights lawyers representing incarcerated MDC Alliance legislator Job Sikhala pray the High Court will grant him bail tomorrow, arguing on a precedent set by Sikhala’s fellow activists.
Sikhala was arrested on January 9 at Harare Magistrate’s Court where he was part of a legal team representing journalist Hopewell Chin’ono who was arrested on same charges as Sikhala’s.
Sikhala is facing charges of publishing falsehoods, the same charges that also saw MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere languishing in remand prison for over a week this January. Mahere was granted $10,000 bail by Harare magistrate Trynos Utahwashe who remanded her to 23 February.
In his ruling while granting Mahere bail, magistrate Utahwashe noted that Mahere had presented herself to the police and being a lawyer, she knew the consequences she was to face upon being arrested.
He said Mahere was also aware that Job Sikhala and Hopewell Chin’ono had already been arrested on similar charges, which was inconsistent with someone who harboured intentions to abscond trial.
The court also noted that investigations were almost complete with the State having recorded statements from the mother of the nine-year-old baby while police experts were handling other investigations.
Speaking to the Zimbabwe Voice, a lawyer who has been following the Mahere, Chin’ono and Sikhala cases said the Sikhala legal team had their work cut out already.
“The granting of bail to Mahere and Chin’ono separately works in favour of Sikhala’s legal team and against the State. The same argument used to get those two out on bail hold water in Sikhala case, now that there is a precedence as the trio faces the same charge,” said the Harare lawyer.
Chin’ono himself has been upbeat that Sikhala will be out of prison tomorrow.
“Job Sikhala will be out of prison tomorrow based on the fact that Fadzayi Mahere and myself were given bail and we are facing the same charges brought using a law that doesn’t exist,” said Chin’ono on Sunday.
“The High Court of Zimbabwe has overturned my 3 bail denials at the magistrates court. It also overturned Job’s previous bail denial in 2020.”
Another Harare lawyer reckoned that the State prosecutors could only argue against Sikhala’s bail basing on two “excuses”, but these would be dismissed.
“Look, the State prosecutors will have a torrid time arguing against granting Sikhala bail. Their only option will be to cling onto two tired excuses.
“They will argue granting bail to Sikhala saying the State has a strong case against him. Secondly, they will say Sikhala admitted to posting the alleged statements making the State’s case stronger against him,” said the legal analyst.
She, however, cautioned against celebrating too early as some “technical” issues could see Sikhala staying for longer in remand prison.
“Sikhala’s supporters and friends need not celebrate too early, as it is not unusual for technical issues to crop up. Let’s remember that Sikhala’s trial failed to kick-off at the High Court last Tuesday after prosecutors said there was a missing page in his record of proceedings from the Magistrates’ Court.
“Last Friday, prosecutors further asked for a postponement of the bail hearing citing they had received the record of proceedings late and needed time to go through it before they could respond.
“As these incidents show, our State has a huge appetite to incarcerate suspects, especially those with a different political leanings. Sikhala’s supporters need not prepare the bonfire yet. He could still be held up for more days if not weeks,” she added. – Zimbabwe Voice 🔺