By NQOBANI NDLOVU
ACTIVIST and journalist Zenzele Ndebele was yesterday arrested at State House in Bulawayo where he was demanding that President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was meeting civic society organisations (CSOs) from the region, should address the 1980 Gukurahundi massacres.
Ndebele was nabbed at a search point at the State House entrance allegedly with used teargas canisters.
He was whisked away for interrogations amid reports that State security also besieged his Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE) offices, where he is a director, as part of their investigations.
Mnangagwa was meeting the CSOs under the banner Matabeleland Collective (MC) at State House where the issue of Gukurahundi massacres, compensatory and
infrastructure development, national healing and devolution, among other ills facing the region, topped the meeting.
It is a first such engagement between Mnangagwa and MC — a consortium made up of about 66 CSOs and church-based organisations drawn from the region — to meet and openly discuss the Gukurahundi issue.
The MC convener and activist Jenny Williams said CSOs in the region realised that “we could not continue to cry tears of destitution and despondency” and decided to engage Mnangagwa directly over the burning issue “for the betterment of our region”.
“As people of this region, we share and continue to feel the pain of feeling excluded due to spoken language, tribe, class or geographical location or colour.
“We continue to remember loved ones buried and unaccounted for. Despite the pain still felt and shared by people of this region, we realistically told each other that it is time to engage the government of Zimbabwe,” Williams said in her opening remarks.
“As MC, we believe that we should speak with one voice, we need healing, what we think about Gukurahundi, who did it, when and for what reason. We want to talk freely about Gukurahundi.”
The meeting was later closed to journalists, but sources who attended the gathering said the issue of Gukurahundi and devolution featured prominently in the discussions.
“We had an open discussion around the issue of Gukurahundi. We raised concern that the issue of Gukurahundi has been criminalised as seen by arrests of some activists,” Dumisani Nkomo, the co-ordinator of the faith-based Habbakuk Trust and one of the conveners of the MC, said in an interview.
“The President said the issue of Gukurahundi should be openly discussed be it on radio, television or anywhere. He said the issue of compensatory development should also be looked into.”
Mnangagwa, in his closing address after the session was opened to journalists, admitted government’s reluctance to address the Gukurahundi massacres, pledging to ensure that MC concerns were attended to through follow-up engagement meetings.
“I came with an open mind to listen and I am satisfied that I made a correct decision. Non-interaction creates fear and suspicion where there ought to be no fear and suspicions. We had our heads in the sand, but now our heads are out now,” he said.
“I believe that as government and as my minister (Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Sekai Nzenza) has said, she is going to create a platform, where there is continuous dialogue.”
Meanwhile, it was not yet clear which charge Ndebele will face following his arrest.