A Zimbabwean court has fined a popular opposition legislator for obstruction of justice in a move that bars him from contesting the forthcoming elections.
Job Sikhala, deputy chairperson of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and long serving opposition legislator, was found guilty by a Harare magistrate after spending 300 days behind bars in a high-profile case and fined $600.
Mr Sikhala, 50, who is a lawyer, was arrested over a video in which he was demanding justice for a murdered CCC activist. A ruling Zanu-PF party member was arrested for the murder of the activist whose mutilated body was found in a well.
“The state has proved its case beyond any reasonable doubt,” the magistrate Marewanazvo Gofa said while delivering his ruling.
“The accused has no defence at all and is hereby found guilty and convicted of the offence.”
Mr Gofa said Mr Sikhala will spend six months in jail if he fails to pay the fine. Another six-month jail term was wholly suspended.
Prosecutors said by blaming Zanu-PF for the activist’s death, he was interfering with police investigations.
He is still on trial in other cases that include inciting public violence over the same video and publishing falsehoods.
Mr Sikhala has unsuccessfully applied for bail 15 times since his arrest in June 2022.
Prior to the conviction, the firebrand politician had been arrested 67 times and was never convicted.
Legal experts said the latest conviction means that he would not be able to contest legislative elections later this year.
Crippling the opposition
CCC spokesperson Gift Ostallos Siziba told journalists outside the court that President Emmerson Mnangagwa is using the justice system to cripple the opposition ahead of the elections.
“This is a clear travesty of justice. Most of our leaders are in and out of the courts for different concocted political charges,” Mr Siziba said.
Last week, a Harare magistrate jailed Jacob Ngarivhume, a leader of a small opposition party, for four years for inciting public violence after he organised protests against corruption in July 2020.
Another CCC spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere was last month fined $500 for publishing falsehoods after she tweeted a video of police officers beating a woman with a child strapped on her back.
President Mnangagwa, who is seeking a second term in office after rising to power following a 2017 coup against long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, said he will announce the election dates later this month.