George Maponga and Fidelis Munyoro
MDC-Alliance vice national chair Job Sikhala was yesterday acquitted on subversion charges by Masvingo senior High Court Judge Justice Garainesu Mawadze, in a development described by lawyers as a sign that the rule of law is alive and well in Zimbabwe.
The judgment, which took almost one hour to deliver, was stopped briefly after tear smoke filtered into the courtroom, choking judges, lawyers, journalists and ordinary people, who raced outside for fresh air.
Police had thrown the teargas to disperse hired MDC supporters who had massed outside the court entrance where they were singing party songs and chanting slogans.
Some shops briefly closed after the violent MDC-Alliance members started smashing car windows with stones.
Riot police quelled the disturbances.
Apart from acquitting Sikhala, Justice Mawadze, who was flanked by assessors, Messers Samuel Mutomba and Elias Gweru, also upheld Sikhala’s application for exception to the charge.
He said the application for exception made by Sikhala through his defence team led by Ms Beatrice Mtetwa, was meritorious hence the ruling to uphold it.
The judge further upheld Sikhala’s not guilty plea he had entered earlier on, ruling that it would “be a sad day for the country’s jurisprudence if a person is charged on the basis of semantics”.
Justice Mawadze said the basis of charges against Sikhala was a verbatim statement he allegedly made in Bikita that was taken out of context.
“The State put a spin to the alleged utterances by the accused. “The statements should prima facie speak for themselves. The State used a wrong approach. Mr Zvekare proffered his own subjective interpretation but the charge has to be clear if accused is to have a fair trial,” said Justice Mawadze.
Lawyer Mr Joel Mambara said Zimbabwe has over the years ably demonstrated that there is rule of law.
He cited the judgment in the case of the late MDC founding president Mr Morgan Tsvangirai in the treason case, as an example.
“Rule of law is an elusive concept. When justice is in your favour, there is rule of law. When you are properly tried and found guilty, there is no rule of law,” he said.
“One is confounded when each time the beneficiaries of the rule of law shout the loudest that there is no rule of law.
“This is done ostensibly to entrench their positions and to win donor sympathy. Justice has not only been always done, it has been seen to be done. Sikhala’s matter is a living example.”
Veteran lawyer Mr Tinomudaishe Chinyoka said the prosecution was always doomed from day one.
“There was no crime committed and the Prosecutor General (Mr Kumbirai Hodzi) should never have agreed to prosecute the matter,” he said.
“What the court has done, which our courts have consistently done, is to be true to the law. There was no treason hence the not guilty verdict.”
Some of the MDC-Alliance merchants of violence later accompanied party leader Mr Nelson Chamisa and other senior officials on a march to Mucheke Stadium for commemorations in honour of their late former leader Mr Tsvangirai.