Civil society organisations based in Matabeleland have challenged government to reverse a ban on an exhibition depicting the 1980s Matabeleland atrocities.
The exhibition run by Bulawayo-based artist Owen Maseko at the National Gallery in Bulawayo was halted by police four months ago.
The government, through the Censorship Board, last Friday gazetted an instrument effectively banning Maseko’s exhibition.
The government gazette says the Gukurahundi exhibition by Maseko is a tribal event.
“It is hereby notified that, the Board of Censors has, in terms of section 12(1) and (2), and 14 (3) of the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act (Chapter 10:04), declared the following (that): the showing of (DVD) (digital video disc) clips, showing effigies, words, and paintings on the walls of the Bulawayo National Art Gallery by Owen Maseko prohibited;
“ . . . the exhibition at the Bulawayo National Art Gallery of effigies, paintings, and words written on walls portraying the Gukurahundi era as a tribal based event and as such is prohibited,” reads the gazette.
Maseko is due to appear in court on September 13, to face charges of putting up an exhibition that insults the person of President Robert Mugabe.
He is also facing charges of contravening sections of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
Matabeleland Civil Society Consortium (MCSC) yesterday said government should immediately reverse its ban on Maseko’s exhibitions.
The MCSC comprises Habakkuk Trust, Christian Alliance, Bulawayo Agenda, Radio Dialogue, Bulawayo Christian Legal Society, Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association and the Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda.
MCSC spokesperson Dumisani Nkomo said were suprised how the government rushed to condemn the exhibition.
He said it would have been logical for the government to condemn the slaughter of 20 000 civilians in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces rather than an exhibition covering the issue.
“We are dismayed that the Censorship Board and the government at large view exhibitions and films on Gukurahundi as offensive but do not see anything sinister or offensive about the deliberate slaughter of about 25 000 unarmed civilians.
“The Matabeleland Civil Society Consortium calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to immediately reverse the ban on exhibitions and films,” he said. “Instead the government should put in place mechanisms to ensure there is space to carry out debate on Gukurahundi,” Nkomo said.
In a related case, National Art Gallery director Voti Thebe yesterday appeared in court facing charges of allowing Maseko to put up his exhibition at the gallery.
Thebe appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Sibongile Msipa and was remanded out of custody to September 21.
The trial was postponed because Thebe’s lawyer, Sabelo Sibanda, is away on business in South Africa.
Msipa emphasised that the trial would go ahead on September 21 with or without Thebe’s lawyer.
Four witnesses including a member of the Censorship Board, who inspected the exhibition at the gallery, turned up for the trial.