HARARE – Former Zengeza West lawmaker Job Sikhala faced a significant legal setback on Wednesday as a Harare magistrate delivered a guilty verdict in a trial where he was accused of disseminating false information.
The charges against Sikhala stemmed from a Facebook post alleging that a police officer had fatally struck a baby with a baton stick while enforcing COVID-19 lockdown regulations in Harare in 2020.
The post came in the wake of viral images depicting a motionless infant strapped to her mother’s back, with the mother confronting a uniformed police officer, accusing him of causing her baby’s death.
However, subsequent investigations revealed that while there was a confrontation between the woman and the police officer, the baby was alive.
Throughout the trial, the former Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) vice chairperson maintained his innocence, denying any ownership of the Facebook account used as evidence by the prosecution.
Sikhala defence quashed
Despite his denial, presiding Magistrate Feresi Chakanyuka ruled that the Facebook account in question unequivocally belonged to Sikhala, citing his name and likeness present on the page.
“In assessing the weight of electronic evidence, reliability of the place it was stored will be taken into account,” stated Magistrate Chakanyuka.
“It is clear that the name and picture appearing on the page is Job Sikhala. The Facebook page contains the accused’s name and face. The utterances align with the accused’s political rhetoric.
“The court is convinced that the evidence before the court points to one thing; the Facebook page belongs to the accused.
“Therefore, the accused published the prejudicial statement which was meant to undermine the authority of the ZRP. Therefore, the accused is found guilty of communicating falsehoods,” the ruling stated.
Sikhala was granted bail and is scheduled to appear for sentencing on February 16. His legal team has expressed intentions to appeal the conviction.
This verdict comes on the heels of Sikhala’s recent release from nearly 600 days of continuous incarceration at Chikurubi Maximum Prison on charges of inciting public violence.
The outcome of Sikhala’s trial has ignited discussions about freedom of expression and the responsibilities associated with social media usage, particularly among public figures and political figures.