By Elizabeth Sitotombe and Melinda Teya
ON September 6, a national shutdown was called for under the banner #FreeJobSikhala.
It was a flop.
The instigator of this call was none other than Jacob Ngarivhume, the obscure leader of little-known Transform Zimbabwe political party.
While it is obvious that Ngarivhume is trying to draw attention to himself, he is a nonentity whose mention will not go beyond this line.
Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) members have also called for Sikhala’s release by quoting the Constitution that allows citizens the right to air their grievances and protest.
Chapter 4, Part 2, Fundamental human rights and freedoms of Section 59: Freedom to demonstrate and petition reads: “Every person has the right to demonstrate and to present petitions, But (sic) these rights must be exercised peacefully.”
The opposition, it seems, intentionally leaves out the last part that ties down demonstrations to a ‘peaceful exercise’.
Sikhala and his party members are mostly lawyers and, therefore, know that the right to protest must never infringe the rights of others according to Section 52 of that same chapter that states that: “Every person has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right—
- (a) to freedom from all forms of violence from public or private sources.”
The opposition politicians calling for a national stay away have been posting online and sticking posters on the streets that read:
“No one will go to work including civil servants
No one must be on the streets demonstrating in Zimbabwe
Massive demonstration and Shutdown of all Zimbabwean embassies around the globe
No shop must be opened in Zimbabwe
Everyone will post #FreeWiwa on all social media platforms.
Zimbabwe belongs to its citizens not politicians.”
On September 6, the people exercised their constitutional right by ignoring the call and going about their business.
After all, the opposition likes to claim that ‘Zimbabwe is a nation of vendors’.
This means that many Zimbabweans are small-to-medium entrepreneurs and a day missed from work is a loss in revenue.
The instigators have no right to demand that people stop going about their business for a politician who has no respect for the law and hires American lawyers for his defence.
The Constitution does state in the same chapter on rights and freedoms in Section 50 that a prisoner:
“(d) must be released unconditionally or on reasonable conditions, pending a charge or trial, unless
there are compelling reasons justifying their continued detention….”
- Sikhala proudly wears his arrests as a badge of honour, claiming to have been arrested over 65 times since his days as a student activist where they (students) vandalised university property, breaking windows and defecating in college cold rooms.
- He loves playing to the gallery, usually just before regional and international meetings (especially the UN September meetings).
- As a product of violent student activism and later the MDC, violence has over time become synonymous with the opposition who are fond of giving that label to Zanu PF.
- On August 9 2019, the opposition high on named and unnamed substances almost burnt the CBD to the ground. They destroyed vendors’ wares, goods, stoned buildings, stripped road signage and burned Zanu PF cars, among other crimes.
- In February 2020, in yet another protest in Chitungwiza, which began in Saint Mary’s right at Job Sikhala’s house, his violent youth brigade stripped the only traffic light in the town and started fires on the tarmac.
- The police were called as residents and business owners had to close shop for fear of being caught in the crossfire.
- Even as Sikhalala boasts being arrested over 65 times, this is the longest he has been incarcerated. An air of desperation lingers around the CCC camp as law enforcers simply refuse to bow to the unreasonable demands made by the opposition.
- The opposition went as far as claiming he had been poisoned in jail, to perhaps try and get him released ‘quickly’. In 2020, Sikhala claimed a ‘Prisons official’ threatened to kill him.
- This time around, Sikhala’s aide pointed fingers at the Chikurubhi Maximum Security Prison officials in an alleged poisoning of the incarcerated Sikhala.
- He claimed that Sikhala had informed him that on Saturday last week, about eight men, officers, went into his cell in order to conduct a search.
- Sikhala claimed he was told to keep his distance as they searched. He claimed they rummaged through his belongings, including his food.
- At this point he alleges it was poisoned.
- No claims could be as far-fetched as this.
- CCC Diaspora threatened: “If anything happens to Hon Job Sikhala or other political prisoners in Chikurubhi@edmnangagwa you are directly responsible.”
There could be a possibility that Sikhala is not well; after all he is no spring chicken and prison is not a joke. But admittedly, it is not easy to take anything he says seriously because of his constant posturing for attention.
He once claimed to have been abducted and later resurfaced in some bush.
In the video, he is seen sitting on a rock after eating plates of food in a wanna-be-guerilla style, claiming to be hiding from law enforcement agents and surviving on food from the locals.
Even as he claimed to be living in the bush, he had on a clean t-shirt and jeans, even his flip flops looked clean.
This is not new at all: In 2020, the opposition trio of Johana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marowa claimed they were abducted by some law enforcement agents and tortured beyond human imagination.
The trio claimed they were taken to a remote wooded area where they were beaten, stripped naked, sexually assaulted with firearms and forced to drink each other’s urine.
- On August 13 2019, MDC youth chairperson for Mufakose, Blessing Kanotunga, claimed he was allegedly abducted and assaulted by five armed men as he slept in his home.
- Another Mufakose MDC activist Morgan Gumbo, claimed he was also abducted on the same day.
- On August 14 2019, Tatenda Mombeyarara (co-ordinator of the Citizens Manifesto) claimed he was abducted from his home in Chitungwiza, assaulted and left for dead in Hatfield.
- On August 18 2019, MDC Alliance Epworth, Ward 5 chairperson Patrick Bandera and the party’s district secretary for labour, Givemore Goreke, were purportedly abducted by five armed men.
- On August 19 2019, MDC Alliance members from Bulawayo — Goodsen Phiri, Wilbert Verenga, Masiza Ndlovu, Benard Verenga and Tadiwanashe Marumbei — claimed they had been abducted and tortured.
- One of the teachers’ unions, ARTUZ leader Obert Masaraure is not free from such controversies; a few years ago, it was claimed the union leader was kidnapped when he was on the phone with Voice of America Zimbabwe Service (VOA/Studio 7), saying he was fearing for his life as he felt he had been followed to his house by suspected members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
- “Minutes after raising concern, loud noise could be heard from the background as the home was being broken into,” reported VOA.
- “When VOA tried to reach him a few minutes after he raised alarm, his wife responded in a text, noting that ‘they took him away, they broke our house’.”
- Pictures purported to be of Masaraure, with a battered back with old bruises, were circulated on social media platforms such as Whatsapp and facebook, as well as a video in which he was thanking Zimbabweans for their thoughts and prayers.
The law is simply taking its course and there are consequences to violating it.