By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
04 March 2014
Police in Bulawayo have blocked yet another memorial service for the victims of the Gukurahundi genocide, claiming that the event would stir emotions and end in violence.
Reports said last Saturday the police occupied Stanley Square, which was the venue of the planned meeting, before dispersing the gathering crowds. It was the second time this year for the police to stop Ibhetshu Likazulu from commemorating the victims of the 1980s genocide.
In January a prayer meeting failed to take place at the Baptist Church after the police ordered the congregants to disperse. Former Roman Catholic Church Archbishop Pius Ncube confronted the police, but was forced to conduct a short prayer session outside the venue after they refused to budge. The police claimed that the meeting was not a prayer meeting but a demonstration.
This time the Bulawayo-based pressure group decided to notify the police of the public memorial but the police refused to sanction it. A Daily News report said the police wrote a letter to the pressure group claiming that the meeting stood to ‘cause disharmony.’ The police also claimed that ‘those opposed to the event may take advantage of the meeting.’
Edwin Ndlovu, an executive member at Ibhetshu Likazulu, told SW Radio Africa that after the meeting was banned the pressure group resolved to defy the order and go ahead with the event. He said it was the pressure group’s right to hold prayer meetings anytime they wanted to and the police have no right to stop them.
He added: ‘We deny that the meetings we want to hold are divisive. Rather they are the way to go. People need to speak out and the perpetrators must apologise. By blocking such events the government is making things worse. People might be quiet now but they will not be quiet forever. Still waters run deep.’
It is not for the first time police have stopped gatherings to do with Mugabe’s genocide. In 2012 one Matobo family could not rebury Mvulo Nyathi, who was allegedly killed by the Fifth Brigade in 1984. Two years earlier police blocked an exhibition by visual artist Owen Maseko depicting the genocide at the Bulawayo Art Gallery.
Maseko was arrested and charged with undermining the authority of the President and ‘causing offence to persons of a particular race.’ The case was later transferred to the Constitutional Court after Maseko’s lawyers argued that criminalizing creative arts was an infringement on the artist’s right to freedom of expression. In January Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku reserved his ruling after the state said it may not have a case against Maseko.