Zim Rights Lawyers In Court Over Banned Exhibition

The exhibition resulted in the brief detention of Zimrights Director Okay Machisa on Tuesday who was later released after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai intervened.

Tsvangirai was expected to officially open the photo exhibition that showcases grisly images from the violent June 27 2008 elections. The Movement of Democratic Change, which Tsvangirai leads, says an estimated 200 people were killed during the period, while hundreds others were displaced from their homes. Most perpetrators of the violence are still to be tried in court, despite some of them having been identified by the communities and MDC. This is also despite the fact that MDC long handed a dossier to the police that named most of the perpetrators.

The exhibition planned to show images of broken limbs, burnt buttocks and other gory photos of people maimed and attacked by soldiers and Zanu PF elections during the shammed presidential second round election.

Tsvangirai has said there will be no healing in Zimbabwe without the truth coming out. Zimbabwe has set up a national healing organ spearheaded by Ministers from Zanu PF and the two MDC formations, which are all part of the inclusive government.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Director Irene Petras told journalists in Harare on Wednesday that the urgent court application had been filed on Wednesday so that the planned exhibition by Zimrights would go ahead as scheduled.

“We have been instructed by Zimrights to file an urgent chamber Application demanding for an immediate return of the seized photographs. The application also challenges the unjustifiable attempt to prevent the launch from taking  place today, and the threats to prefer criminal charges which in our considered legal opinion have no basis  in law,” Petras told journalists in Harare on Wednesday.

She expressed concern over the continued harraresment of members of the civic society saying such actions where meant to deny democracy in the country.

“Such actions are solely meant to instill fear and paralysis within the civic society and to prevent free assembly, association and expression around national events and processes. For too long civic society has been excluded by  political parties and state institutions and  actors from participating, as its  fundamental in issues around governance, national healing and reconsiliation,and  other matters which are in the national interest,” she added.

Machisa was on Tuesday arrested at the Gallery Delta in central Harare, where some ZimRights officials were working on putting the pictures on the walls in preparation for the exhibition entitled “Reflections”.

The police however seized the exhibition pictures and told Machisa to give a seven day notice of his intention to hold the exhibition to the police.

The arrest of Machisa comes barely a month after he received a threatening email from a person claiming to be Dzapasi Mumunda. His colleagues Nunurai Jena, Netsai Kaitano and Jabulisa Tshuma also received threatening calls.

The email read; “You enjoy flying in and out of the country demonizing your country, why don’t you go and stay there? They monitor, soon you will all stay out.”

In the email, Machisa was warned that people from Mumunda’s office have been tasked with bringing him down and he should be careful, especially at home.

Although ZimRights reported the threats to Harare Central Police Station no investigations or arrests have been made.

He also said in November last year, several armed men waited at his home’s gate as he returned from a meeting. They left after he alerted the police and colleagues.

Jena the Regional Chairperson for Mashonaland West, Kaitano the  Regional Chairperson for Chitungwiza and Tshuma Zimrights Treasurer were also reported to have received threats from an as unidentified person who claimed to have links with the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
The three received different anonymous messages on their cell phones ordering them to put an end to their work on the constitution making process and threatening them with death.

The messages also asked them about their motives to work within the association. All the messages were sent from the same number which is now unreachable.

Zimrights carries out intensive civic education in the communities and campaigning on the right of people to be involved in the drafting of the new Constitution.

The co-Home Affairs Ministers and the Police Commissioner-General whom ZimRights and influential rights group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) petitioned early this month seeking some guarantees on the safety of Machisa and other threatened human rights defenders have not done anything with regards to secure his security and investigating the threats on his life. ZimRights filed a police report under number IR 030 117.