Police Bar Zimrights Photo Exhibition, Arrest Three

About a dozen police officers swarmed the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) boardroom, the venue of the photo exhibition, looking for organisers of the event.

Okay Machisa, the ZimRights director, told Radio VOP police arrested Joel Hita  and three other employees Cynthia Manjoro, Olivia Gumbo and Leo Chamawinya on Monday.

While Hita remained in police custody on Tuesday morning, the three employees were released at 7pm on Monday. ZimRights intended hosting an photo exhibition entitled “Reflections.”

Hita was being held without any charges being formulated against him. Machisa said police had refused Hita’s relatives to give him food.

“This is another barbaric harassment and persecution of human rights defenders and campaigners. It is real people acting out the law.
Police were ordered by a High Court in Harare recently to return pictures seized at another exhibition. This is a continuation of the
harassment of civil society organisations in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Many people who had come for the exhibition were forced out of the venue and ordered to disperse, Radio VOP witnessed.

Masvingo provincial police spokesperson, Assistant Inspector Prosper Mugauri, refused to comment on the matter, referring all questions to the police headquarters in Harare.

However, Zimrights lawyer, Philip Shumba of Mwonzora and Associates, said: “We are going to challenge the decision and seek the release of the arrested. The police charged us under POSA, but the event had got clearance from the police.”

Recently Police in Harare barred a similar exhibition after arresting Machisa who was later released at the intervention of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Zimrights sought a High Court order that compelled the police to return the pictures and the exhibition went ahead. Tsvangirai officially opened the event. However, organisers later abandoned the exhibition that was supposed to run for 10 days, due to constant harassment by the police. Zimrights later vowed it will stage exhibitions throughout the country.

A Bulawayo artist Owen Maseko was also recently arrested for an exhibition showing photos of the Gukurahundi era which saw many people in Matabeleland persecuted by the North Korean trained fifth Brigade Army. He was later released.