BREAKING NEWS: ‘Job Sikhala is now a free man’

Job Sikhala

Former Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala will leave prison at 8AM on Wednesday after a court on Tuesday handed down a wholly suspended two-year prison sentence following his conviction on charges of incitement to commit public violence.

Sikhala, who will leave Chikurubi Maximum Prison after 596 days of pre-trial incarceration, was tried alongside Chitungwiza North MP Godfrey Sithole.

Sikhala and Sithole’s lawyers welcomed the non-custodial sentences but highlighted the “horrific injustice” of denying Sikhala bail for almost two years.

“Job Sikhala is now a free man. This is the only case that has been keeping him in custody,” his lawyer Harrison Nkomo said outside court.

Doug Coltart, a member of Sikhala’s legal team added: “That he has been given a wholly suspended sentence highlights the horrific injustice of the fact that he has been denied bail and kept in prison all this time.”

Coltart said they had to go through certain formalities on Sikhala’s release, which will see him spend one more night behind bars before his release on Wednesday.

A packed courtroom erupted in celebration when magistrate Tafadzwa Miti read the sentence, which came after the two men were convicted for allegedly inciting supporters of their CCC party to attack Zanu PF rivals in Nyatsime, days after CCC activist Moreblessing Ali was abducted and killed in May 2022.

The two had pleaded not guilty.

“The court has taken note of the fact that the two are both first offenders. First offenders should be given a second chance,” Miti said.

“In this case, the court is of the view that the two will not reoffend. Secondly, the offenders have already faced pre-trial incarceration. The court imposes two years’ imprisonment wholly suspended for five years on condition of good behaviour.”

At a pre-sentencing hearing on Monday, lawyers for both men had asked for a non-custodial sentence.

Nkomo told the court: “Mr Sikhala is a legal practitioner and a former legislator of Zengeza West constituency, the title he lost because of this incarceration. The history of this matter demonstrates that this case warrants a wholly suspended sentence.

“He has been in jail for 594 days and if we were to apply section 113 of the Prisons Act and treat that as if he was serving a prison term, he would have served a term of two-and-a-half years.

“He forked money for his two lawyers. He had to procure more funds to secure one more defence counsel, an advocate in the HIgh Court. His family had to drive to Chikurubi to give him good for the 594 days and one cannot ignore the financial consequences. He lost his income including from his practice as a lawyer following his incarceration.

“His children were relying on handouts and children moved to inferior schools because of his incarceration.”

He said the court must also consider the interests of society and objectives of sentencing, including rehabilitation and deterrence.

“In this case there is nothing serious warranting a stiff penalty. If one considers what was evolving at the particular time, there was a callous murder of Moreblessing Ali. We all know what happens to emotions of people in the society when this occurs. Society at that time was supercharged because of this particular murder.

“There was no exhibit evidence of damaged property. There was no corroboration. So how are you convinced that a motor vehicle, for instance of John Chiwashira was damaged? I refuse to say there was evidence of damaged property.

“No evidence was shown that the police or anyone of authority was attacked. Not even a security guard. There was no injury of any kind but of property, and without the court’s enquiry we cannot deal with it.”

Nkomo had proposed a wholly suspended sentence or a fine of US$300.

Oliver Marwa, the lawyer for Sithole, said: “The court did not try the charge of public violence, but incitement. No evidence was led to prove the crime of public violence. I submit that the appropriate sentence in respect of the second accused is a warning and discharge.” ZimLive.

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