HUMAN rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa says the refusal by the State to grant bail to 14 persons arrested for the Nyatsime violence and two legislators Job Sikhala (Zengeza West) and Godfrey Sithole (Chitungwiza North) who have been languishing in remand since June is political persecution.
Sikhala and Sithole were arrested on June 14 and have been denied bail by the courts.
The State alleges that the MPs incited violence in Nyatsime and obstructed the course of justice after the brutal murder of Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activist Moreblessing Ali by a suspected Zanu PF activist Pius Mukandi “alias Jamba”.
Fourteen CCC activists were also arrested after violence erupted in Nyatsime, which resulted in houses being burnt.
The arrested activists include Precious Jeche, Misheck Guzha and Odius Makoma who were victims of the violence after their houses were gutted by fire.
Speaking to Alpha Media Holdings’ Heart & Soul television (HStv) last Thursday, Mtetwa said the State was targeting Sikhala due to his political activism.
“Godfrey and the others are now victims of clearly Job (Sikhala) being the target, but their morale is high. Job is a politician, and he believes in what he believes in. But he ought not to be in prison for doing what he was doing as a lawyer appointed by the Ali family. The reason they have not been given bail is because they know they will not get convicted. The idea is to make them serve the sentence. They know they don’t have the evidence to prove the cases against them,” Mtetwa, who is a top human rights lawyer, said.
She bemoaned what she described as “State capture” of the country’s judicial system, which has resulted in weaponisation of the law against perceived enemies of the State.
“Zimbabwe has returned to the early stages where there was detention without trial of opposition members. We are not different from the time when the Zapu leadership (then led by the late former Vice-President Joshua Nkomo) was in detention without trial.
“The difference now is that there is a veneer of legality in trying to take these people to court as if there is due process. The bottom line is those people are in custody for no other reason than that they are opposition leaders.
“You will recall one of the judges (Justice Erica Ndewere) who got recalled for misconduct said her troubles started when she gave bail to Job Sikhala. That background should tell you everything, why we are not getting bail in the Sikhala case,” Mtetwa added, while further stating that the country’s has judicial officers are afraid of asserting their judicial authority and independence for fear of reprisals.