By Charles M. Mutama
Student politics of the 1980s was revived with the advent of Job Wiwa Sikhala’s vibrant activism in the late 1990s. His election into the Students Representative Council (SRC) alongside the late President Learnmore Jongwe, Vice President Fortune Molokele, Secretary General Moffat Chikuni, and Tafadzwa Changamire Dombo Musekiwa among others made the students movement in the national discourse relevant and students from tertiary institutions stakeholders and stockholders in Zimbabwe.
Job Wiwa Sikhala led a series of earthquake demonstrations at the University of Zimbabwe and all other Universities and throughout the country agitating for socio and economic rights for students in particular and the citizens in general. The contentious issue surrounding the timely disbursement of student grant and loans by the Robert Mugabe regime became his personal struggle on behalf of his constituency. In order to appeal broadly to the national students’ body, Job Sikhala and his contemporaries were instrumental in the reconstitution of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) in which he was elected the Secretary for Information and Publicity.
That Zimbabwe National Students Union leadership also included the late President Learnmore Jongwe, Vice President Daniel Molokele Tsiye, and Secretary General Charlton Hwende. In 1997, he became the Secretary General of the University of Zimbabwe Students’ Union which also had the current member of Parliament for Hwange Central, Advocate Daniel Molokele Tsiye as President and former member of Parliament for Zengeza Tafadzwa Musekiwa as Vice President.
This aforementioned student leadership galvanized students nationally to engage the government through intense demonstrations against the fifty percent fees policy which would see the over-burdened and underpaid peasant and urban working poor parent paying for school fees for the first time in Zimbabwe. Job Sikhala and this generation of student leaders rekindled the vibrancy only matched by the previous crop of leaders who included former Deputy Prime Minister Prof. Arthur Guseni Mutambara, former legislator and International Socialist Organization (ISO) Munyaradzi Gwisai and others who campaigned against Mugabe’s one-party state endeavors. The series of demonstrations led by Job Sikhala and his peers were so radical and epic that the government-captured administration of Professor Graham Hill shut the university for a year.
During the period 1998-1999 which was the formative stage of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Job Sikhala worked closely with the late former Prime Minister Dr. Morgan Richard Tsvangirai culminating in his election into the new student and worker led political party as the Secretary for Defence and Security. In the year 2000, he was elected as the Member of Parliament for St. Marys’ in the dormitory town of Chitungwiza where he has been residing ever since. Job Sikhala’s parliamentary career has been exceptional judging by the lively debates and engagements that have become part of the Zimbabwean legislature against the backdrop of Zanu PF partisanship. He epitomizes the solid, critical, and vocal servant of his constituency who raises pertinent issues affecting the citizens in general and the people of Zengeza in particular.
The distinct characteristic of his illustrious political career has been his bold and confrontational approach when dealing with the political bigotry of Zanu PF. During the height of Zanu Pf’s siege of MDC supporters in rural areas, Job Sikhala successfully repelled merchants of violence in Bikita and Mount Darwin after distress appeal by members of his party. He defiantly staged rural area based demonstrations during the era of Zanu PF’s no-go zone policy against the MDC to the astonishment of Dickson Mafios and Savior Kasukuwere who were prominent in enforcing the Machiavellian approach there. His lack of fear and resistance to paralysis during the political contestation that emerged with the emergency of the MDC against Zanu PF hegemonic control of the nation-state has seen him being arrested 63 times facing spurious charges ranging from incitement to cause public violence to Treason. On 13th January 2003, Job Sikhala together with his lawyer Gabriel Shumba, Charles Mutama, and his aide Taurai Magaya were arrested and severely tortured at the Kabri Barracks for allegedly training a military wing to fight Zanu PF. Major Mzilikazi who was head of military intelligence then was responsible for the inhuman and degrading treatment that Job Sikhala and his counterparts experienced.
He views his legal profession in Fanonian philosophy as simply putting at the people’s disposal the intellectual and technical capital that he snatched when going through the native colonial academic institutions. In other words, practicing law is a national duty intended to benefit the poor who are emasculated by the bourgeois Zanu PF government which has become anti-national, stupid, contemptible and a cynically exploitative ruling class. After the aftermath of the 14th January 2020 crackdown on opposition supporters by the Mnangagwa regime, Job Sikhala represented 186 illegally detained MDC Alliance members who were accused of violating the country’s constitution for participating in demonstrations against fuel and price increases.
In 2020 alone, he has been hauled to the courts and incarcerated twice on trumped up charges. In February he was accused of allegedly uttering treasonous statements in Bikita during an MDC Alliance rally and in August he was also accused of allegedly inciting public violence during the 31 July anti-corruption nationwide protest. He was detained illegally for a month and defiantly addressed the nation as he went to Chikurubi Maximum Prison stating that, Zimbabwe is for everyone and the people shall be victorious. He has joined forces with fellow anti-corruption campaigners Hopewell Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume on a new frontier that he believes is fundamental in arresting the economic rot brought about by Zanu PF. He has since returned to the native colonial university to study a graduate degree in Human Rights while playing prominent roles in the MDC Alliance and the July 31st Movement. In the grand scheme of things, Job Sikhala does not leave his political goals to chance and fate but edges on towards a huge national responsibility of rescuing the nation from the jaws of a brutal dictatorship.
–Charles M. Mutama is a Zimbabwean based in diaspora who was at UZ during Wiwa’s days