HARARE – A fresh bail application by MPs Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole failed on Wednesday after a magistrate ruled that they had failed to demonstrate “changed circumstances” since the last time they were rejected.
It was the fifth bail application by the two lawmakers tossed by the Harare Magistrates Court. They also twice failed at the High Court.
The MPs were arrested in June accused of inciting public violence. They both deny the charges.
Through their lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa and Jeremiah Bamu, Zengeza West MP Sikhala and Chitungwiza North lawmaker Sithole argued that the passage of time without trial warranted their release from custody.
They also maintained that they were political prisoners as they drew the court’s attention to an online petition signed by 48,000 people demanding their unconditional release, as well as a video recording of Lovemore Madhuku, a member of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Political Actors Dialogue who stated that their incarceration had nothing to do with legal issues but was political.
Harare magistrate Taurai Manuwere rejected their arguments.
“The submissions are based on public perception or opinion that the courts are captured, but not fact. No evidence of that perception has been placed and public perception cannot influence the courts,” Manuwere said.
“Public speculation, opinion and clamour are not at all changed circumstances. The court therefore finds that there are no changed circumstances which warrant an admission to bail.”
Prosecutors have given Sikhala and Sithole a November 15 trial date – exactly five months from their June 14 arrest. The two MPs argue that the pre-trial incarceration is inordinate.
The two MPs are part of a group of 16 activists from the Citizens Coalition for Change arrested for public order offences following riots which erupted during a funeral service for the slain party member Moreblessing Ali in Nyatsime. Ali was allegedly abducted and killed by the brother of the local Zanu PF chairman, although police deny a political link.