CITIZENS Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa has claimed that the State is maliciously exposing incarcerated legislators Job Sikhala (Zengeza West) and Godfrey Sithole (Chitungwiza North) to inhumane treatment as punishment for their political affiliation.
Sikhala, Sithole and 14 other party members were arrested on charges of inciting public violence following violent clashes that erupted between CCC and Zanu PF supporters at the funeral of slain opposition activist Moreblessing Ali in Nyatsime in June this year.
Narrating his ordeal when his visit to Chikurubi Maximum Prison last Thursday was foiled, Chamisa said: “When we were blocked from seeing Sikhala and Sithole, they had already been told that we had come to visit them. From where we were trying to gain entry to meet the legislators, I could see them. I saw Job and Sithole but I did not meet them. I could see their faces. From their expressions, I could tell they were distraught as they realised that we were being blocked from meeting them.”
“Job literally shed tears when he realised that we were not going to be allowed to meet them. It pained me. I heard him shouting, “Why, Why, Why?” I felt the pain. That was malicious infliction of harm. Job had a notebook in his hand. I knew he had a lot to discuss with me. He wanted so much to meet me but I was blocked. As we walked away, Job broke down; I saw and heard him weeping. He could not bear it. That was so heart-breaking.”
They have been in prison for over 100 days after being denied bail on several occasions.
Chamisa said prison officers had told him that Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi had instructed them to deny him entry.
Ziyambi was not picking calls yesterday.
But last week he reportedly told ZimLive that he never gave the instruction to bar Chamisa.
“That guy is a pathological liar; who did I give that instruction? I am not even aware of his request to go and visit the prison. I do not stoop that low to go down to administer regulations on who is supposed to go to prison and who should not,” Ziyambi is quoted as having said.
Chamisa yesterday hit back saying: “I do not utter words cheaply. Why would I make false accusations against a whole minister? There were three prison officers who were present. In their presence, the officer-in-charge (Superintendent Moses Gukurume) said he had received a phone call from Ziyambi that we should not be allowed to see Sikhala. I was already inside Chikurubi when all this happened. I only said what was said. I did not lie. These are facts.”
Meanwhile, Sikhala was yesterday barred from receiving a cake to celebrate his 50th birthday by prison authorities.
In a letter seen by NewsDay, Sikhala said the regime was enjoying seeing him languishing in prison.
“Evil plotters conspired to ruin my special day and this happy moment by their obsession with persecuting my person. What gives me utmost happiness is that I am not the first and will not be the last political prisoner to celebrate their birthdays under persecution from an evil dictatorship. History is awash with such personalities. Nelson Mandela celebrated 27 consecutive birthdays in prison; Dumiso Dabengwa seven, Lookout Masuku seven, Bakili Muluzi 10, Raila Odinga 10, and many other good men and women of upright standing.”
His lawyer, Freddy Masarirevhu told NewsDay: “Mai Sikhala just wanted to maintain the tradition that her husband gets a cake on his birthday. We were actually shocked that the authorities blocked Sikhala from receiving the cake, they are trying to cause more pain to his wife and family.”
Chamisa also tweeted: “Today Sikhala turns 50. Sadly, I’ve just heard from his wife that they had baked a birthday cake for him but prison authorities denied the family the opportunity to have the cake delivered to him. Join me in wishing the citizens’ hero a happy birthday. God bless Wiwa.”
Last week, Sikhala turned to the Inter-Parliamentary Union seeking to pile pressure on the government to release him.