Zimbabwe Police Block Job Sikhala Solidarity March

Pro-Democracy Activists Vow to Continue Fighting for the Release of Jailed Opposition Leader

by Victor Adetimilehin

Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) have prohibited a planned solidarity march for Job Sikhala, a prominent opposition politician who has been in pretrial detention for over a year. The march, which was scheduled for Saturday in Sikhala’s hometown, was aimed at demanding his release and denouncing the government’s repression of dissent.


The organizers of the march, the Job Sikhala Solidarity Council, said they received a letter from ZRP stating that the event did not meet the requirements of the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA), a controversial law that gives the police sweeping powers to ban public gatherings and protests.


The council, led by trade unionist Obert Masaraure, condemned the police’s decision and accused the government of treating the solidarity movement as a terrorist group. “The Council warns the regime of Emmerson Mnangagwa to stop treating the Sikhala Solidarity movement as a terrorist grouping. The Movement is using constitutional means to apply pressure on the Harare regime to release Sikhala who is clearly a political prisoner,” Masaraure said in a statement.


Sikhala, a former member of parliament and the vice-chairperson of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A), was arrested in December 2022 and charged with inciting public violence at the funeral of a slain activist, Moreblessing Ali. He has been denied bail several times and his trial has been repeatedly postponed, raising concerns about his health and human rights.


Sikhala is one of the most vocal critics of President Mnangagwa, who came to power in 2017 after a military coup that ousted long-time ruler Robert Mugabe. Sikhala has called for mass protests against Mnangagwa’s rule, which he says has failed to deliver on its promises of economic and political reforms. Sikhala has also accused the government of using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to clamp down on civil liberties and silence dissenting voices.


The government, however, has dismissed the allegations of political persecution and insisted that Sikhala is facing due process of the law. It has also defended the MOPA as a necessary measure to maintain peace and order in the country, which has been plagued by social and economic challenges, including hyperinflation, unemployment, poverty, and corruption.


The Job Sikhala Solidarity Council said it will not be deterred by the police’s ban and vowed to continue with its campaign to rally support for Sikhala’s release. The council said it has lined up a series of solidarity activities, both online and offline, to mobilize pro-democracy campaigners in Zimbabwe and beyond. “The Council will not rest until Job Sikhala is free and the people of Zimbabwe are liberated from the shackles of tyranny and oppression,” Masaraure said.


The council also called on the international community to intervene and pressure the Zimbabwean government to respect human rights and the rule of law. It urged the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the United Nations, and other regional and global bodies to monitor the situation in Zimbabwe and hold the government accountable for its actions.


The council expressed hope that Sikhala’s case will inspire more Zimbabweans to stand up for their rights and demand change in their country. “Job Sikhala is not only a hero, but a symbol of resistance and resilience. His courage and determination have inspired millions of Zimbabweans to fight for a better future. We stand with him and we will not give up until he is free,” Masaraure said.

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