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Zimbabwe: Court dismisses opposition leader, Job Sikhala’s plea for 15th time. Here’s why

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A Zimbabwean court has refused to dismiss the plea of opposition lawmaker, Job Sikhala, over an allegation of inciting public violence.

The 50-year-old politician has been held in a maximum security prison in the capital Harare since June when he was arrested alongside fellow members of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).

The presiding magistrate, Marewanazvi Gofa ruled there was “overwhelming” evidence against Sikhala despite the argument of the defence attorney, Harrison Nkom that the state’s case was weak and should be dismissed,

“Circumstances call for an answer from the accused person… it cannot be said that the state’s evidence at this stage is unreliable,” Gofa said.

“Application for discharge…is hereby dismissed,” the magistrate ruled.

The troubled politician who is Citizen’s Coalition for Change Zengeza West Legislator has been behind bars for 275 days and has unsuccessfully applied for release on bail 15 times.

He has been arrested 67 times but never convicted, according to one of his lawyers. Charges against him are based on a video in which he allegedly demanded justice for the murder of another opposition activist whose mutilated body was found in a well.

General elections are expected to be held in Zimbabwe in July or August 2023. The President of Zimbabwe is elected using the two-round system. The 270 members of the National Assembly consisting of 210 members elected in single-member constituencies and 60 women elected by proportional representation in ten six-seat constituencies based on the country’s provinces.

There have been concerns over the restriction of civil space and opposition voices in the Southern African country.

The United Nations in a report published in February urged Zimbabwe’s President to reject enacting a bill that would severely restrict civic space and the right to freedom of association in the country.

The UN in the report held that the oversight regime in the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill for civil society organisations provides for disproportionate and discretionary powers to the newly established Office of the Registrar of PVOs, without independence from the executive branch.

Politics

South Africa: Parliament reelects Cyril Ramaphosa as president

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President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has been re-elected for a second term. He was nominated for re-election on Friday by a member of his African National Congress (ANC) party during the first sitting of parliament following last month’s election.

Julius Malema, the opposition Economic Freedom Fighter, was also put forward for the nation’s presidency, necessitating a vote in parliament to determine the winner.

With a majority of votes in the National Assembly, Chief Justice Ramaphosa was proclaimed president. Julius Malema, the leader of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party, received 44 votes, while Ramaphosa received 283.

The Democratic Alliance party said earlier in the day that it would support Ramaphosa in the election as part of a deal to establish a unity government with the African National Congress.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has been re-elected for a second term. He was nominated for re-election on Friday by a member of his African National Congress (ANC) party during the first sitting of parliament following last month’s election.

Out of the 400 seats in the recently elected National Assembly, 246 are held by the ANC and DA.

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Niamey court revokes immunity of overthrown Nigerien president

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The State Court of Niamey has revoked the immunity of Niger’s deposed President, Mohamed Bazoum, signalling the start of criminal proceedings against him by the junta, according to a statement from his attorneys on Friday.

In July of last year, a military coup overthrew Bazoum. Since then, he and his spouse have remained in custody despite numerous requests for his release from Western nations and the ECOWAS regional political and economic grouping.

 

Colonel Amadou Abdramane, the junta’s spokesperson, stated on state television in August that the military government had “gathered the necessary evidence to prosecute the ousted president and his local and foreign accomplices for high treason and for undermining the internal and external security of Niger before competent national and international authorities.”

In a statement, one of his attorneys, Moussa Coulibaly, claimed that the court’s ruling cleared the path for Bazoum to face charges of treason and conspiracy to compromise state security.

The court proceedings “violated (ed) the absolute rights of the defence: we were not authorised to meet our client and the court refused to hear our arguments,” he added.

It was not immediately able to get in contact with the Niger government for a response. Because of Bazoum’s interactions with foreign heads of state and international organizations, the junta declared last year that it would bring high treason charges against him.

Following 2020, there have been eight coups in West and Central Africa that have brought the military government to power. Calls for Bazoum’s reinstatement have gone unanswered, including by the ECOWAS Court of Justice, which declared last year that his arrest was unjustified.

According to Bazoum’s attorneys, he and his spouse had never appeared before a magistrate. Lawyers said that since October, when their phone line at the White House was taken away, they have been cut off from the outside world and are only permitted to have visitors from their doctor.

Mohamed Bazoum Salem, the 23-year-old son of the deposed president, was given provisional parole from house imprisonment by the Niger military tribunal in January.

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