State risks infringing on Sikhala’s rights

Report by Margaret Matibiri and Yolanda Muswere

The National Prosecuting Authority(NPA), is treading on thin ice as it risks infringing on MDC’s  vice chairperson Job Sikhala’s constitutional right of appearing before a Magistrate within 48 hours of arrest as enshrined in the Constitution as his location remains unknown.

Sikhala who spent the night in a holding cell at Harare Central Police station woke up to confusion surrounding the jurisdiction of his prosecution amid reports that he was being transported to Bikita today (Wednesday midmorning).

His whereabouts are, however, still unknown at this juncture as there are contradicting reports in circulation, some indicating that he will instead be tried by a Harare Magistrate which has seen his legal team splitting, with one awaiting for him at the Harare Court and the other headed to Masvingo.

Sikhala who was arrested on Tuesday morning should have appeared before a Magistrate today at 1115 hours for his initial appearance.

Fears are high that the matter might have to be brought before court on Thursday morning which would mean the 48 hour grace period stipulated in the Constitution would have lapsed.

Section 50 subsection  (2) b of the Constitution indicates that, “any person who is arrested or detained for an alleged offence and who is not released must be brought before a court as soon as possible and in any event not later than 48 hours after the arrest took place or the detention began as the case may be, whether or not the period ends on a Saturday or Sunday or public holiday.”

Section 50 (3) goes on to say, “any person who is not brought to court within the 48 hour period referred to in subsection (2) must be released immediately unless the detention has earlier been extended by the competent court.”

The NPA finds itself caught up in a web as Sikhala’s presence in police custody remains a ticking time bomb which might blow in their faces and see the outspoken lawyer/politician walking away scotfree as no court has been approached for extended detention. 

Sikhala is facing treason charges emanating from statements he uttered at a rally in Masvingo on Saturday. Sikhala told his party supporters that he was ready to illegally overthrow President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government before the expiry of his term of office.

“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,” he said.