Job Sikhala, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) national vice-chairperson who is also Member of Parliament for Zengeza West, is set to appear before the High Court in Masvingo next week to face charges of treason. The outspoken Sikhala was arrested in July last year following utterances he made at a rally in Bikita, where he said his party would roll out demonstrations that would remove President Emmerson Mnangagwa from power before the 2023 elections. He was charged with subverting a constitutional government as defined in section 22(2)(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. Sikhala becomes the 21st person to have been charged with treason since Mnangagwa came to power through a coup in November 2017.
Sikhala said on that day: "We are a committed leadership that will give Zanu PF headaches and [Amos] Chibaya was not lying or joking about the war and fight we are going to take to the doorsteps of Emmerson Mnangagwa. We are going to overthrow him before 2023, that is not a joke."
Next week Sikhala (JS) will stand trial for uttering those words and The Standard (TS) had an opportunity to speak to him yesterday about this and other issues. Below are excerpts from the interview.
TS: Your treason trial opens next week in Masvingo. How do you feel? Are you not afraid?
JS: When you live your life for the common good of the people you don't put personal fears as the determinant factor to influence your true beliefs. Personal fears can only be put on the table when facing persecution by the oppressor, by the conscience of dishonesty. I am not in pursuit of public good in pretence. I mean every word I say and mean every action I take in life. I strongly believe in a dream of leadership genuity and honest to conscience. Strong character is the hallmark of honesty and our country needs men and women who are prepared for any consequences for their beliefs. Oppression has been nurtured and bred in our country through the use and application of fear as the foundation of our political jurisprudence and oppressors enjoyed it to the hilt when they harvested the proceeds of fear. The destination of our country should not be arrived on the basis of fear, but reality of the state of affairs. Let those who allow fear to reign in their decisions enjoy in their comfort zones and leave those who believe in truthfulness pursue their dreams without distraction.
TS: How is your family taking it?
JS: My family has witnessed all the hell on earth since time immemorial. I don't talk to my wife about political issues. She is a spectator in shock and sometimes does not understand me. What I like is her non-interference with my beliefs. What shocked me is a question I got from one of my sons when I went to collect him from school. He asked me if Fred (a young lawyer at Sikhala's law firm) would give them money for school fees if I was sent to prison. I just laughed because I did not have an answer for him. He said he had been told at his school that I was going to be sent to jail. Deep down my heart, my family is as good as any other suffering Zimbabwean. Selfishness is not part of my portion. Every Zimbabwean should be happy for my family to be able to also enjoy life.
In the circumstances obtaining, we are all equal in suffering.
TS: Are you happy, confident of receiving a fair trial?
JS: The right to a fair trial is the expectation of us all. I don't want to appropriate the divinity of prophets as to whether I will get a fair trial or not. We leave it and be witnesses to the process. I am a legal practitioner and well acquainted with the dictums of a fair trial as provided for in terms of Section 69 of the Constitution. It is one of those unlimited rights. I will observe it by myself whether the trial will be in conformity with the dictates of a fair trial or not. I don't need an interpreter. I will give my verdict after the whole trial. Let's leave it to those ordained with the spirit of prophecy to know in advance whether I will face a fair trial or not. At present I have no opinion.
TS: Are you happy with the support you're receiving from your party, the MDC, what kind of support are you getting?
JS: The situation I am in is the same as that of someone one in mourning and bereavement. It is unheard of anywhere in the world to hear the bereaved going door-to-door begging for and calling for people to mourn with: "kuti ndafirwawo huyai mucheme neni." Those who want to mourn with you will come uninvited. However, like at every funeral some will rejoice at the misfortunes that would have befallen you while others mourn genuinely with you. Let those who are with me do it without fear, coercion or intimidation. Let those who do not want to do so go ahead and celebrate and rejoice. It's a democratic society that we all seek to create in our country. You can only be a fool of astonishing magnitude to expect everyone to mourn with you during your difficult times.
TS: There are reports that you have been mobilising people to attend your court case tomorrow and to demonstrate in your support. How true is this?
JS: When ridiculousness is celebrated you must expect such claims from detractors. When I was arrested for this very case last year, thousands of Zimbabweans of goodwill stood with me, including those far off in the land of the aliens. Did I mobilise them? The political consciousness does not need to mobilise anyone. The people of Zimbabwe always stand for the truth. The truth is so embedded in our people that they know what they want. It is naivety that possesses those in authority to take Zimbabweans for granted. Respect them and you will understand them better. They don't need to be mobilised by anyone.
TS: There have been reports that there are widening fissures within the MDC and that these are around the growing exasperation and impatience that the MDC membership are having with the party. The generality of the membership is said to be fed up with the leadership's alleged softly, softly approach to the crisis gripping the country. The reports go further to claim that there is agitation for Chamisa's replacement with more combative characters. Tendai Biti's name and yours feature prominently in the alternative proposals. Would you like to comment?
JS: Let those who live in the world of make-believe believe their fantasies and illusions. This party witnessed several splits generated by such rumour mongering. And once bitten-twice shy. We will never ever be divided by such cheap talk again. There is unquestionable loyalty to the leadership and presidency of Advocate Nelson Chamisa. Let the alternative speakers continue drafting their illusionary alternatives. We are one and no one will break us.