In a significant development, the High Court of Zimbabwe has overturned the illegal conviction of Job Sikhala, a prominent political figure and lawyer who was sentenced by magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa in May 2023 on a politically motivated charge of Obstruction. Sikhala, a former opposition Member of Parliament for Zengeza West until August 2023, had been imprisoned for 527 days without bail, a contravention of both natural rules of justice and Zimbabwe’s constitution, which recognizes bail as a constitutional right.
The controversial conviction was part of a pattern observed under the current Zimbabwean regime, where magistrates’ courts are allegedly employed to persecute political opponents, journalists exposing state corruption, and government critics. Despite the quashing of this particular conviction, Sikhala remains in prison, facing additional politically motivated charges. The denial of bail in these instances has raised concerns within the global legal fraternity.
Job Sikhala’s legal battles have a long history, with 67 arrests and no convictions, marking him as one of the longest-serving political prisoners at Chikurubi Maximum Prison without a conviction, trailing behind only Dumiso Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku.
His prolonged and allegedly politically motivated imprisonment has broader implications for Zimbabwe, impacting its bid for readmission into the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, expressing concern over Sikhala’s detention, wrote to the Zimbabwean Government, but the response was reportedly non-responsive.
Sikhala’s initial arrest last year was linked to his advocacy for an opposition CCC supporter, Moreblessing Ali, who fell victim to violence. Despite being the family lawyer for Ali, Sikhala was denied bail on another politically motivated charge related to speaking out against state corruption and advocating for peaceful anti-corruption protests. The intricate details of Sikhala’s legal battles underscore broader issues of justice, human rights, and political persecution within the Zimbabwean context.
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