By Tatenda Chitagu

MDC deputy chairperson and Zengeza West legislator, Job Sikhala, who is facing a subversion charge, was yesterday freed by Masvingo High Court judge Justice Neville Wamambo on ZW$5 000 bail.

The State did not oppose bail, but called for stringent conditions, among them that Sikhala should not address any political gatherings, over and above a ZW$50 000 bail.

But Justice Wamambo thrashed the submissions by the State, saying even though Sikhala was facing a serious crime, he was presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“I am of the conviction that the bail of ZW$5 000 as suggested on behalf of the applicant will meet the justice of this case. I am also of the considered view that it is not necessary at this stage to put up conditions that he should not address a political rally. To that end, I will grant him bail on the following conditions: ‘That he pays ZW$5 000 bail at clerk of Court Bikita Magistrates’ Court; that he resides at his given address until his matter is finalised, that he reports once a week at St Mary’s Police Station in Chitungwiza; that he surrenders his passport and that he will not interfere with State witnesses until this matter is finalised,” Justice Wamambo said.

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The ruling threw hundreds of MDC supporters who had packed the court into wild celebrations that brought Masvingo City to a standstill, as they sang songs in celebration. MDC secretary general Chalton Hwende said the party was happy with the ruling.

“As we said from day one, Sikhala did not commit a crime. The court saw it fit to try him from home as he has many days while incarcerated. We are happy that the judge allowed Sikhala to address rallies and mobilise for the party. We had a rally Sunday at Mucheke Stadium, but he could not do his party duties.

“The State’s proposal for ZW$50 000 was a way to try to stop him from getting his freedom. With the bad state of the economy, where would he get such an amount. We are happy that the court saw that it was just an unrealistic demand,” Hwende said.

Sikhala was arrested last Tuesday in Harare, following utterances he made at a rally ahead of the just ended Bikita by-election, where he allegedly said: “We will overthrow President [Emmerson] Mnangagwa before 2023.”

He was secretly whisked away from Harare to Bikita Magistrates’ Court under heavily armed police escort, where he told the court that he was tortured and ill-treated by being denied food and legal representation for two days. Sikhala also said he was stopped from seeing his family and was blindfolded in transit to Bikita.

His trial will commence on July 24 at Bikita Magistrates’ Court.