Zim CSOs Take Stand Against ‘Judicial Capture’
8 June 2023
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By A Correspondent| A group of eighteen local and regional civil society organizations (CSOs) have taken a stand against what they perceive as “judicial capture” and the perversion of justice in Zimbabwe.

In a petition addressed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, these CSOs accuse the country’s Judiciary of manipulating the legal system to target government critics, pointing to the “persecution” of opposition politicians and pro-democracy activists as evidence.

The CSOs express deep concerns about the increasing trend of judicial persecution and the abuse of the legal system by Zimbabwean authorities.

They argue that these actions are aimed at stifling civic engagement and targeting human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists.

The statement, dated June 1, was also copied to Chief Justice Luke Malaba, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, and Acting Prosecutor-General Nelson Mutsonziwa.

One prominent case highlighted by the CSOs is that of Job Sikhala, a legislator from Zengeza West, who has been in pre-trial detention since June of the previous year.

Sikhala is charged with incitement to violence at the funeral of opposition activist Moreblessing Ali. The CSOs find it alarming that Sikhala has been denied bail repeatedly, claiming that this highlights the weaponization of the law against government critics.

They further criticize the courts for deviating from the provisions of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Act, particularly in relation to bail.

They argue that there is no legal justification for denying Sikhala bail on multiple occasions and continuing to detain him for over ten months.

The CSOs point out the inconsistency in granting bail to Sikhala’s co-accused while he remains in custody, raising suspicions of targeted persecution against the opposition MP.

According to the CSOs, the Sikhala case exposes the absence of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. They demand that any individuals within the Executive or Judiciary, including those affiliated with the ruling ZANU-PF party or any other organization unduly influencing the courts, should be identified, apprehended, prosecuted, and convicted for their actions that violate the principle of separation of powers.

The CSOs emphasize that Sikhala deserves equal access to judicial remedies without discrimination based on political grounds, as guaranteed by national and international law.

Numerous CSOs have joined forces in this petition, including residents’ associations, the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA), Zimbabwe Organization for Youth in Politics (ZOYP), Voice of Justice, NamRights Inc (Namibia), Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (South Africa), and international organizations such as the Restoration of Human Rights (United Kingdom), Zimbabwe Diaspora for Democracy (United States), Political Prisoners in Africa (SADC), DITSHWANELO — The Botswana Centre for Human Rights (Botswana), Mozambique Human Rights Defenders Network (Mozambique), Centre for Democracy and Development (Mozambique), Civic Space Network (SADC), and Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SADC).

Efforts to obtain comments from Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, her deputy Kindness Paradza, and Information Ministry Permanent Secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana were unsuccessful at the time.