Sikhala seeks recusal of trial magistrate who labelled him a criminal

HARARE – Troubled opposition legislator Job Sikhala Thursday protested having his trial heard by magistrate Tafadzwa Miti who on Wednesday openly branded him an unrepentant criminal.

Sikhala, jointly charged with fellow Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) lawmaker Godfrey Sithole – now out on bail – faces trial on alleged violence incitement.

The lawmaker was Wednesday denied his umpteenth bail bid by Miti, after he had lodged another attempt citing changed circumstances.

In seeking bail, Sikhala had indicated, among some of his submissions, that his co-accused, Sithole has been granted his freedom.

Sikhala also drew the court’s attention to that he has been arrested on almost similar charges more than 63 times before with no conviction against him.

However, in a blunt denial of bail, Miti told the veteran politician that the number of times he claims to have been arrested actually presented him as an “incorrigible” offender who did not deserve the freedom he was praying for.

Trial was supposed to start before Miti but the Zengeza MP sought recusal of the magistrate from the case citing inherent bias against him.

Sikhala’s lawyer Jeremiah Bamu said considering recent outcomes in his client’s bid to secure freedom, it was very likely that the magistrate would be biased resulting in the politician subjected to subjective trial.

In his bid to seek the magistrate’s recusal, Sikhala is set to submit a written application this coming Monday with the state expected to respond on November 30.

Ruling will be handed down on December 7.

The state, represented by George Manokore and Ephraim Zinyandu, did not oppose the application, indicating “the application falls within their right and the state will wait for them to file”.

Meanwhile, on his part, Sithole did not seek any recusal of the trial magistrate saying he will be guided by the court.

The two opposition lawmakers are accused of inciting the violence that rocked Nyatsime, just outside Chitungiwza town in June in the aftermath of CCC activist Moreblessing Ali’s shock murder weeks before.

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