Job Sikhala, a Zimbabwean opposition lawmaker and interim chairman of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party who has been detained for more than 43 days, will be represented by international lawyer Robert Amsterdam, founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP, in coordination with local defense counsel.
The arrest of Mr. Sikhala, who is Member of Parliament for Zengeza West, took place on June 14, shortly following the funeral of a murdered CCC activist, Moreblessing Ali. According to media reports, Ms. Ali was abducted in the Nyatsime area of Chitungwiza on May 24 by a known individual, and her body was found in a well three weeks later with signs of torture and mutilation.
Police arrested Mr. Sikhala on charges of allegedly inciting public violence following social media posts in which he called for accountability for the killers of Ms. Ali, while pointing to the alleged involvement of ZANU-PF individuals in the crime. On this same day, twelve other civilians and activists were arrested, including opposition Member of Parliament Godfrey Sithole. They were separately charged with the same offence of inciting public violence.
On July 12 was then re-arrested while in prison and additionally charged with obstructing or defeating the course of justice. To date, Mr. Sikhala has been denied bail for both cases, with the latest denial of bail on 26 July at the regional magistrate court by Magistrate Mbanje.
“These trumped up, politically motivated charges against a sitting member of parliament represent a clear and brazen violation of his rights under Zimbabwean and international law,” said Amsterdam. “The state appears to be acting in a criminal manner against Sikhala in order to cover up another ZANU-PF crime. They have jailed and denied bail to an innocent man in order to send a message of their own impunity.”
Amsterdam said that his law firm, which is acting on a pro bono basis in coordination with Sikhala’s local defence counsel, will submit pursue a series of international petitions with groups such as the Inter Parliamentary Union and other international law enforcement bodies to hold the regime of President Emmerson Mnangagwa to account.
Mr. Amsterdam has a history of working in Zimbabwe. He was awarded the Global Pro Bono Dispute of the Year Award by the magazine The American Lawyer for his successful representation of whistleblower Georges Tadonki in a dispute with the United Nations.
Amsterdam & Partners LLP has represented numerous opposition figures across Africa, including Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) in Uganda, Freeman Mbowe and Tundu Lissu in Tanzania, and Maurice Kamto in Cameroon, among others.
The firm has also represented parties such as the Republic of Turkey and the late Fourth Republican President of Zambia Rupiah Banda. Amsterdam & Partners LLP is based in London and Washington DC.