Picture: 123RF/STOCKSTUDIO44
Picture: 123RF/STOCKSTUDIO44

Harare — While his  fellow activists  were released on bail on Wednesday, the Harare magistrate’s court on Thursday denied bail to Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) deputy chair Job Sikhala saying he is   a flight risk.

Sikhala was one of the antigovernment critics arrested in a brutal crackdown on dissent. Journalist Hopewell Chin'ono and the leader of small opposition group Transform Zimbabwe, Jacob Ngarivhume, were both released from Harare’s maximum security prison on Wednesday on strict bail conditions.

Before their release, Chin’ono and Ngarivhume were denied bail three times by Zimbabwe’s courts. Analysts said their detention was “political persecution”.

In a court ruling which  was meant to “instil fear and could have a chilling effect on young lawyers who may be dissuaded from taking on human rights cases, Chin'ono's lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, was barred from representing him by the courts.

Like Sikhala, both Ngarivhume and Chin'ono were arrested for allegedly  inciting the public to remove under-fire President Emmerson Mnangagwa during the July 31 demonstrations. The protests were foiled by the military and the police.

Political tension has increased in the southern African country which is grappling with the world’s second-highest inflation and a collapsing economy.

Mnangagwa has responded to the heightened tensions in the country by cracking down on opponents, some of whom have been arrested or abducted.

In denying Sikhala bail, magistrate Lazini Ncube said that it took the police a long time to arrest the accused.

In August, President Cyril Ramaphosa sent envoys to Zimbabwe to negotiate a solution to the country’s political crisis and this week he reiterated that the envoys will return to Harare soon to continue the dialogue.

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