MDC deputy chairperson Job Sikhala, who appeared Thursday at the Bikita Magistrates’ Court facing a treason charge, has recounted a horror tale at the hands of the police when he was nicodemously taken from Harare Central Police Station to Masvingo without the knowledge of his lawyers.
Sikhala Thursday made an initial court appearance before magistrate Marehwanazvo Gofa charged with contravening section 22 (2) (a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act following utterances he allegedly made at a Bikita rally that he will “overthrow President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF government before 2023”.
At the commencement of the hearing, his defence counsel, led by Alec Muchadehama and supported by Harrison Nkomo, Douglas Mwonzora and Jeremiah Bhamu, requested adjournment of court so that they could meet him and get instructions since they last saw him in Harare when he was supposed to appear at the Rotten Row Courts.
Muchadehama then requested that Sikhala testify on how he came to Bikita and the torture he suffered at the hands of the police when the court sitting resumed.
The State, led by provincial prosecutor Elison Chabarika, consented.
“I was smuggled from Harare to Bikita. I was denied access to my lawyers and family when I was arrested on Tuesday at 8am. As such, I did not eat anything and my first meal was today (this) morning. I raised health issues with the police that I am hypertensive and asthmatic, but the police could not have any of that. I could not take my medication,” he said.
“When I was supposed to go to court in Harare on Wednesday morning, which I consented to, the investigating officer disappeared, only to return at around 1pm, handcuffed me and never told me where I was going.”
Sikhala added: “We went to the car park at Harare Central Police Station where three cars – two twin cabs and a minibus were waiting for me with 12 men armed with guns. I was bundled inside, put in leg irons and sandwiched by two armed men. They blindfolded me with a hood and sped off with me.”
“After driving for about two-and-half hours, according to my estimation, I could not breath, and I told them and they only left space for my nose outside to breath. They denied me the chance to relieve myself,” he said.
“I could not take it anymore and my head was boiling and I complained, that is when they removed the blindfold. It took me about 10 minutes to realise where we were and I saw a Zororo Lodge sign, then I knew we were near Gutu Growth Point.”
Muchadehama applied for refusal of further remand, saying Sikhala was overdetained.
Chabarika opposed the application, arguing that Sikhala went to court before the lapse of the 48-hour requirement as he was detained at 10:20am Tuesday.
However, Muchadehama reminded him that the law talks about both arrest and detention.
In her ruling, dismissing Sikhala’s application, Gofa said the criminal proceedings cannot be over-ridden by overdetention.
“It is clear that criminal proceedings cannot be stayed because of torture or over-detention. It is not a bar to prosecution. Be that as it may, the complaints raised by the accused cannot be ignored, hence the State should investigate the allegations,” Gofa said.
The trial continues on July 24 in Bikita and Sikhala has since applied for bail at the Masvingo High Court.
There was a heavy police and CIO presence in Bikita with the Masvingo-Bikita road clogged with numerous roadblocks searching for “dangerous weapons”.
The courtroom was packed to the brim as MDC supporters came from as far as Harare, Gutu, Masvingo, Bikita and Zaka in solidarity.