The MATEBELELAND Forum, a network of civic society organizations in Zimbabwe, has condemned the recent arrest of three activists who were participating in Unity Day commemorations in Bulawayo.
The activists were arrested at the statue of late Vice President Joshua Nkomo while gathering to remember the victims of the 1980s Gukurahundi massacre, which resulted in the deaths of around 20,000 mainly Ndebele-speaking people.
The arrests were made by anti-riot police, who also threatened to arrest journalists who had been invited to cover the event.
In a statement, MATEBELELAND Forum spokesperson Nkosikhona Dibiti said the arrests were a “blatant and flagrant violation of freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate,” which are protected by the country’s constitution. Dibiti called for the immediate release of the three activists and for citizens to be allowed to remember and commemorate their loved ones in a peaceful manner.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was a key player in the Gukurahundi massacre, has previously promised to engage with and resolve the matter once and for all.
However, the MATEBELELAND Forum has stated that any attempts to address the massacre while silencing the voices of civic groups and activists is not genuine and goes against the principles of peace and reconciliation.