HARARE – Former Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala and Godfrey Sithole, the MP for Chitungwiza North, were convicted of incitement to commit public violence by a court in Harare on Wednesday.
A sentencing hearing will be held on January 29.
Meanwhile, in a separate case in which Sikhala is accused of communicating falsehoods, magistrate Feresi Chakanyuka postponed judgement to February 7 after the National Prosecuting Authority failed to meet timelines for submitting written arguments.
In a packed courtroom, Harare magistrate Tafadzwa Miti said the NPA had managed to prove its case against Sikhala and Sithole, who were arrested after violence erupted in Nyatsime where a CCC activist Moreblessing Ali was abducted on May 24, 2022, as she left a nightclub and found murdered three weeks later.
The two men denied the charges, including prosecution claims that they hired vehicles to carry CCC supporters to carry out violence in Nyatsime. Sikhala, the court heard, had also been recorded on video declaring that Nyatsime had been “turned into a terror zone” after attending a memorial service for the slain activist.
Sikhala, a lawyer, had been engaged by Ali’s family to speak for them.
The central theme of the prosecution was that Sikhala and Sithole, who were MPs in neighbouring communities, conspired and transported hundreds of CCC supporters to the memorial service at Nyatsime, which was followed by an orgy of violence after Zanu PF supporters allegedly attempted to disrupt the gathering.
The trial heard from investigating officer Gift Mutamba, who played a video of Sikhala in which he was heard telling supporters “to use whichever way available” to avenge Ali’s death.
A video expert called during the trial said he was unable to tell how the video was originated or the source of video. The defence said the video was edited.
Magistrate Miti said from the evidence, it was clear that the accused did not post the video on social media as alleged by the prosecution.
“Evidence shows that the video was not posted on the accused’s social media platform. The evidence did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that Sikhala posted the videos, but this doesn’t mean that an offence was not committed,” she said.
“From the video evidence, it is beyond any doubt that the accused is the one who uttered the words in the video. No evidence of tempering was put before the court. No evidence of manipulation was put before the court.
“Through the words uttered, the accused clearly incited CCC supporters. Indeed, public violence erupted in Nyatsime … It is therefore clear that Sikhala’s utterances indeed incited the public to commit violence.”
Turning to charges that the two men provided transport for people who later engaged in violence, the magistrate said: “The witness managed to link Sithole to the commission of the crime in that he indeed mobilised transport. To incite is to influence the mind of another to commit public violence, this can also be by gesture.
“The court is therefore convinced that the two indeed committed the crime of incitement to commit. As such the two accused persons are found guilty as charged.”-ZIMLIVE