Cathy Buckle: Sikhala’s freedom, Chamisa’s exit, Zimbabwe’s unpredictable February

Under a brilliant February sky, Zimbabwe emerged from the shadow of oppression. The sunrise, a canvas of peach and apricot, marked not just a celestial beauty but also the end of a 595-day ordeal for opposition MP Job Sikhala, finally released from unjust imprisonment. Yet, as the nation basked in newfound hope, a twist unfolded—President Nelson Chamisa abruptly resigned, leaving the opposition in disarray. Zimbabwe now stands at a crossroads, testing the resolve of those who champion truth, justice, and the nation’s integrity.

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By Cathy Buckle

Dear Family and Friends,

With the rain gone and a brilliantly blue sky overhead, Zimbabwe stepped out into the sunshine this early February and we were immediately plunged into a wave of both disbelief and delight.

Delight at the absolutely spectacular sunrises in a newly washed sky. Swirls and smudges of peach and apricot, the waning crescent of the silvery moon slipping discreetly into the sunrise and the ever-faithful morning star lighting the sky until the last minute when all the other jewels of the night have gone.

Overwhelming delight since my last Letter From Zimbabwe came in the darkness on the edge of February. 52-year-old opposition MP Job Sikhala was finally released from prison. He had endured 595 days behind bars in what they called pre-trial detention. A detention that had somehow become an unspoken warning to all Zimbabweans not to speak out.

Unceremoniously dumped, at night, on the side of the road, the day before they said he would be released, Job Sikhala was free at last. I am not ashamed to say that tears ran down my face as I watched a little video clip, filmed with the lights from a couple of mobile phones, of Job Sikhala hugging his lawyer, Doug Coltart, when he arrived, in the darkness to greet his client. ‘Thank you my brother’ Job kept saying to Doug, their arms wrapped around each other in a huge bear-hug embrace. After 595 days of seeing the bars and grey walls of a prison cell, sometimes in leg irons and in solitary confinement, Job Sikhala can now also wake to see the beautiful Zimbabwean sunrise, free at last.

Amidst our delight in Zimbabwe this past fortnight came open-mouthed disbelief with the totally unexpected news one morning that Nelson Chamisa, President of the opposition CCC party had quit. Mr Chamisa had won 43% of the four and half million votes cast in the internationally criticized August elections last year. Mr Chamisa said: ‘with immediate effect I no longer have anything to do with the CCC.’ Chamisa said an imposter had infiltrated the CCC, destabilized and contaminated it. He said ‘Zanu PF can take everything that we sweated for, take the party and its name, take the money and whoever is a beneficiary of this fraud.’ Chamisa called on Zimbabweans to ‘rally behind fresh politics, new politics and genuine fresh and credible leaders who want to serve and not be served.’

Powerful words but the sudden exit of Mr Chamisa left every CCC serving official, both in Parliament and in Local authorities having to decide exactly where they stood. If they stayed in office under the name of the CCC did that make them then answerable to an imposter? Are they then complicit with a contaminated, infiltrated party and without a President they believe in. Two Harare CCC MPs, Fadzayi Mahere and Alan Markham, tendered their resignation from parliament within days of the exit of Mr Chamisa. Others wavered, a couple said they were consulting their constituents and some just shut up, watching and waiting perhaps – a move leaving voters looking at them with hooded eyes; do they not think that we are all waiting for answers and deserve answers?

Standing up for what is right, for truth and justice and integrity, for the good of all Zimbabweans and not just those in one constituency or Local Council Ward is now the burning issue at hand. How long will it be before those legislators and Councilors still in office will also come under the hammer of The Imposter?

I write this Letter today in memory of, and with respect for, the countless millions of Zimbabweans who have sacrificed so much, lost so much and to all those who have given their lives for a new and democratic Zimbabwe over the past 24 years. We have not forgotten them and we haven’t given up hope. Don’t forget us, or them, please.

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