MDC MP to remain behind bars after subversion court appearance

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A Zimbabwean opposition lawmaker appeared in court facing subversion charges that carry a 20-year jail term upon conviction, his lawyer said, adding the politician would remain detained while he sought bail.

Job Sikhala is accused of advocating the overthrow of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. He was not asked to plead when he appeared before a magistrate in rural Bikita.

Lawyer Alec Muchadehama said Sikhala complained to the court he was taken to Bikita despite undertakings by prosecutors that his trial would be in Harare.

The lawmaker and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) deputy chairman was told to return to court on July 24 and will remain in custody unless granted bail. The bail hearing is on Monday.

“We have applied for bail at the High Court today. Sikhala had many complaints against the conduct of police, who put a hood on his head so he could not see. They also denied him medication,” Muchadehama said.

The charges against Sikhala emanate from a video on social media, in which the politician appears to be seen and heard telling supporters at a weekend rally: “We are going to take the fight to the doorsteps of Emmerson Mnangagwa, we are going to overthrow him before 2023, that is not a joke.”

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video. Sikhala, through his lawyer, denies the charge.

More than a dozen government opponents have this year faced similar charges, with critics saying this shows under Mnangagwa, government is reverting to harsh Mugabe-era security laws to muzzle the opposition.

Mnangagwa’s promise to break with his predecessor’s policies and tactics and usher in economic prosperity is yet to be realised.

The MDC, which maintains Mnangagwa rigged last year’s presidential vote, routinely says it will use all constitutional means to remove the president, without giving more specifics.

In Harare, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa repeated his party’s demand for political talks with the ruling party only if there was international mediation with a view to guaranteed “free and fair” elections in future.