MDC — Alliance vice chairperson Job Sikhala and party spokesperson Fadzai Mahere were yesterday remanded in custody after the State successfully secured Sikhala’s placement on remand while Mahere is waiting for a ruling on her application opposing her placement on remand.
The two are facing charges of publishing, through social media, false reports that a police officer beat to death a nine-month-old child in Harare and subsequently made statements that the State alleges were designed to incite violence.
Through his legal team of Mr Harrison Nkomo, Jeremiah Bamu and Paidamoyo Saurombe, Sikhala had challenged his placement on remand, arguing that his arrest was unconstitutional.
He claimed that the law under which the State is charging him was abolished in July 2014 by the Constitutional Court.
But Harare magistrate Mr Ngoni Nduna, in his ruling, said the statutes that Sikhala claims were abolished were resuscitated in 2016.
Mr Nduna remanded Sikhala in custody to today for his bail application.
The State, led by Mr Lancelot Mutsokoti had told the court that the law was still in existence and was incorporated in the new Constitution. Mr Mutsokoti argued that the new Constitution says that the freedom of expression excluded inciting violence, among other things.
“By reading of Section 61 of the new Constitution, one will note that the freedom of expression and media excludes incitement to violence, advocating of hate speech, malicious injury to reputation or dignity and malicious and unwarranted breach of privacy.
“We submit that the charges being faced by accused are not falling foul to the new Constitution. Under the current Constitution, the charges have not been declared invalid and therefore it remains an offence under the laws of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
“From the face of the Request for Remand Form, the essential elements of the offence are abundantly clear. We have also alleged a link between the allegations and the accused person. We are also advised that the accused submitted that the Facebook account does not belong to him. This is an issue for trial that we would want to prove that it belongs to him,” he said.
The State alleges that between January 5 and 7 this year, Sikhala published or communicated to the public through his Facebook account, a statement which was materially false.
Sikhala allegedly wrote: “This monstrosity in our country must end. People are already suffering through a myriad of problems and you just take a baton stick and kill a nine-months child. We have reached a boiling point. This year igore rezvimbokoma (this year is for fighting). Wait and see.”
The State alleges that by posting the statement, Sikhala intended to incite or promote public disorder and violence thereby endangering public safety.
Mahere, through her legal team of Mr Jeremiah Bamu and David Dury, also challenged her placement on remand on similar grounds as Sikhala.
Harare regional magistrate Mr Trynos Utahwashe is expected to make a ruling on her application on Friday.
Mr Charles Muchemwa, appearing for the State, also submitted the same grounds that were used when the State successfully placed Sikhala on remand.
Mahere complained of conditions she experienced in police cells ,which she said were deplorable.
Political activist Hopewell Chin’ono will also know the result of his challenge for placement on remand today when magistrate Mr Lazini Ncube makes a ruling.
He is also facing allegations of publishing falsehoods similar those that also led Sikhala and Mahere being arrested.