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Judge to rule on Sikhala application for exception to charge

by Staff reporter
04 Feb 2020 at 05:39hrs | Views
The trial of MDC-Alliance national vice chair Job Sikhala, who is facing charges of subverting the constitutionally-elected Government, kicked-off yesterday at the Masvingo High Court, with his defence applying for exception to the charge.

Appearing before senior Masvingo judge Justice Garainesu Mawadze, Sikhala pleaded not guilty to the charge of subversion. Justice Mawadze remanded the Zengeza West legislator to February 14.

Sikhala is still on $5 000 bail given to him by Bikita magistrate Marewanazvo Gofa when he first appeared at the Bikita Magistrates Court in July last year on the same charge.

Justice Mawadze, who was sitting with assessors Messrs Samuel Mutomba and Elias Gweru, said the postponement would allow the court to have ample time to determine whether or not the utterances made by Sikhala were criminal in nature.

Both the State and the defence would use the time to assess heads of arguments before commencement of the full trial.

Sikhala's defence team led by Ms Beatrice Mtetwa applied for exception to the subversion charge, arguing that the utterances he made at a political rally at Mandadzaka Business Centre in Bikita last year did not constitute a crime.

Justice Mawadze said: "I think we need time to assess whether the utterances made by the accused warrant a full trial or should be dismissed. I, therefore, propose that the matter be postponed to February 14."

Representing the State, Mr Tawanda Zvekare said Sikhala allegedly told the rally that he would overthrow the Government of President Mnangagwa before the next election. Mr Zvekare said Sikhala was serious about his utterances as he emphasised that there was going to be a war against the incumbent.

"According to Section 89 of the Constitution, President Mnangagwa is Head of State and Government and Commander-In-Chief of the Defence Forces, and that is inseparable," he said.

"My Lord, the point I want to drive home is that you cannot separate him (President Mnangagwa) from Government as the defence counsel wants the court to believe.

"The accused indeed was directing his utterances at President Mnangagwa and his Government. It will be naive, therefore, for the defence counsel to suggest that the President and Government are two separate things."

This was after Ms Mtetwa argued that Sikhala's utterances were directed to President Mnangagwa as an individual, and not necessarily the Government he presented.

"My client indeed made the said utterances, but they were directed at President Mnangagwa and not his Government," she said.

"President Mnangagwa is separable from his Government as provided for in the Constitution.

"The accused, as a Member of Parliament, has the privilege of passing a vote of no confidence on the President and his utterances were reflective of such privileges in Parliament and not by any means meant to be implemented violently."

Ms Mtetwa argued that what Sikhala said was not criminal. Police maintained a heavy presence outside the High Court during Sikhala's court appearance after rowdy MDC-Alliance supporters tried to cause commotion.

The youths were whistling and chanting party slogans, forcing the police to barricade all roads leading to the High Court. There were brief running battles between the police and the MDC-Alliance youths outside the courtroom.

Calm at the superior court returned when the youths dispersed at the end of the proceedings.

Sikhala later addressed a small crowd at the Civic Centre, where he claimed that the Government was undemocratic and wanted to cripple the opposition.

Source - the herald