OPPOSITION leader Nelson Chamisa says the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has launched a diplomatic offensive in the region and abroad to secure the release from remand prison of legislators Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole.
Chamisa said Sikhala and Sithole, who face a charge of public incitement to violence, alongside 14 other Nyatsime residents following violent skirmishes at the funeral of murdered activist Moreblessing Ali, did not commit any offence.
They have been in detention since June 14 and have been denied bail countless times.
“We have done everything to make sure that within the confines of legality, constitutionality and peace, we are able to secure their release.
“I will not go into detail on what we are doing within the country and across the region and continent and United Nations to make sure that the issue of this pre-trial incarceration is dealt with,” Chamisa said at the launch of the party’s electoral reform blueprint in Harare on Thursday.
“It’s a sad day and it continues to be a sad moment. What is clear is that they did not commit any offence.
“Their offence is to stand against depression, oppression, corruption, dictatorship and bad governance. That surely cannot be an offence as they were voted on the basis of that platform by the people of Zimbabwe.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has already been petitioned by more than 50 000 people over the continued detention of Sikhala, Sithole and the 14 Nyatsime residents.
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Mnangagwa has not commented on the petition, but presidential spokesperson George Chaaramba has declared that the President would not intervene in the case to respect separation of powers between the Judiciary and the Executive.
Chamisa said the continued detention of the CCC members was an assault on democracy.
“It’s a clear assault on democracy and the will of the people. It’s also an undermining of sovereign declaration of the people who elected them. They are not Hounourables by mistake or omission. You do not treat Hounourable members like common criminals, especially on the basis of an allegation which is politically contrived and motivated,” Chamisa said.
Analysts have also castigated the 16’s continued detention and raised concerns of bias after high-profile criminal suspects such as Zanu PF legislator Mayor Justice Wadyajena and party activist Mike Chimombe were granted bail on their fraud charges.
“The treatment of the Nyatsime 16 versus high-profile multi-million dollar fraud suspects is the reason why Zimbabwe needs judicial reforms. The case of the Nyatsime 16 is plain persecution, instead of prosecution, while real criminals enjoy impunity,” human rights activist Farai Maguwu said.
“This is the summary measure of the degree to which we have failed to attain the aspirations of the liberation struggle and the reason why other countries do not want strong diplomatic ties with us. Rule of Law is the fundamental bedrock upon which modern societies are built.”
Political analyst Methuseli Moyo added: “On one hand, one would argue that the law has been weaponised. On the other, one would argue that the law has been politicised. Politics has clouded everything. It becomes difficult now to say which is which.”
Another analyst Effie Ncube said: “All this contravenes the Constitution, which guarantees equal protection of the law and presumption of innocence.”