By F. Muridzo
This is the third week since Magistrate Faresi Chakanyuka sentenced Transform Zimbabwe President Jacob Ngarivhume to an effective 3 years in prison for inciting public violence.
Not only was this harsh but very unreasonable for a protest that never was. However, the sentence was meant to set a precedence for other suspects facing similar charges. Jim Kunaka, Pride Mukono, Hopewell Chin’ono and Job Sikhala included.
For staters, Jacob Ngarivhume has been a thorn in ZANU PF’s backside since the last election in 2018. He did not disappear like most fly by night party leaders but continued to grow his party Transform Zimbabwe. His “Stop Blaming Start Acting” politics won him many hearts across the country. He became a solution to many communities that faced deep challenges and were neglected by the rogue ZANU PF Government.
In Harare, he championed waste and garbage removal in Mufakose, Budiriro, Glenview, Highfields and Mbare. For two years, because of his efforts, there was no cholera outbreak which previously had ravaged these areas. With a very small budget donated by citizens, he commandeered hired trucks and mobilized citizens to clean their communities. Even the perennially filthy Matapi Flats became clean and habitable. For this, he was arrested several times in Mbare as Government panicked over the success of his initiatives.
Ngarivhume, as a fearless man of action, engaged the leadership of Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC), Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) to push them to act against corruption at highest levels of Government. When no action was taken, he called for peaceful nationwide anti-corruption protests on 31 July 2020 as allowed by our Constitution.
The whole country, which has been disillusioned by ZANU PF and Government’s complicity in corrupt activities, joined in. This made Ngarivhume “enemy number one” of the state! He had to be crushed once and for all. This was clearly expressed by Chief Prosecutor Michael Reza during Ngarivhume’s bail application. Reza said if Ngarivhume was released on bail, he would make Zimbabwe ungovernable! No wonder a heavily armed twelve-member team of detectives from the Special Tactics Unit was deployed in the wee hours of 20 July 2020 to apprehend him.
Ngarivhume had to spend almost two months in pretrial detention. The new dispensation has become notorious in using the courts and the justice system against its opponents in a new kind of lawfare never seen even during the days of Robert Mugabe. Job Sikhala is a case in point. His pretrial incarceration for over three hundred days is a clear manifestation of the cruelty of the new dispensation!
In the past, ZANU PF was accused of using violence and intimidation to instill fear in opponents during elections. It has now gone a step further, capturing the courts and weaponizing the whole justice system against opposition political activists!
Vongai Chikwanda, Amnesty International’s Interim Deputy Director for Southern Africa said, Ngarivhume’s sentencing was a cynical ploy to supress dissent and it was an abuse of the justice system to intimidate and harass opposition voices.
And for the meantime, the nation will miss one more voice of reason, the voice of Jacob!