Officially opening the exhibition, Tsvangirai said: “When I heard of a desperate attempt to stifle this display, I was not angry, but I felt sorry for them,” he said, referring to police and to officials who ordered the photos’ seizure. “Anyone who believes they can deny the truth of our past is deluded. Covering old wounds can only make them fester. We must face them so we don’t perpetuate the wrongs of the past.”
Police who seized the show’s 65 photos on Tuesday said they were not fit for display because they showed nudity, horrific bruises and wounds and unidentified bodies.
The exhibition was attended by some 300 guests, including top government officials, foreign diplomats and rights activists.
In a banning order, police demanded the organizers provide “confirmation from all people appearing on your pictures that they consented to have their pictures exhibited.”
The show’s organizers, Zimrights, won a court ruling Wednesday ordering the photos’ return to the independent downtown Gallery Delta. The photos were returned just five minutes before the show’s scheduled opening.
One photo shows former opposition leader Tsvangirai, his face swollen after he was assaulted by police two years before he joined a coalition government with President Robert Mugabe in 2009.
Macdonald Lewanika, head of Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe, an alliance of reform and civic advocacy groups, said the transitional government was required by a power-sharing agreement to uphold law and order and an accountable justice system.
“This is what some people appear to be scared of,” he said, referring to some members of the security forces loyal to Mugabe.
Much of the political violence that has claimed about 600 lives since 2000, along with tens of thousands of cases illegal arrests, assault, rape, torture and arson, is blamed on police, state security agents and loyalists of President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party.
In contrast to photographic evidence on the victims of violence, the exhibit proposed to show one photo of Mugabe, who is a practicing Roman Catholic, with his hands clasped in prayer.
Tsvangirai ordered the release of the Zimrights director Okay Machisa on Tuesday after he had been arrested in connection with the exhibition. AP/Radio VOP