Zimbabwe Magistrate Refuses To Release Detained Artist

The magistrate, Victor Mpofu, said he needed time to decide on whether to grant Maseko bail or not. The magistrate indicated that he will make a decision on the application for bail by the defence team.

Maseko was represented in the matter by Kucaca Phulu of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

Phulu in applying for bail, said Maseko had no case to answer as the charges being preferred against his client are not covered by the Act the police are using to charge him.

“The police are charging my client under Section 33 and 42 of the Criminal Law and Codification (Reform) Act but the laws do not cover pictures, paintings and drawings and the charges should therefore fall off,” Phulu argued. 

Section 33 of the Criminal law and Codification Act deals with insulting and undermining the authority of the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe while Clause 42 of the Act says anyone causing prejudice on religion and creed shall be guilty of the offence.

Maseko collected family photos of missing people, images of mine shafts where bodies were believed dumped and did paintings to depict the period where an estimated 30 000 people are believed to have been killed by Zimbabwe’s state security. The Mugabe led government unleashed the North Korean trained Five Brigade soldiers into Matabeleland and the Midlands to deal with what it called the dissident menace.

Maseko was arrested together with Bulawayo’s Art Gallery manager Vote Thebe, last Friday after a group of armed police raided the gallery and confiscated the pictures. The state says Thebe is now their key witness in the matter.

Maseko’s arrest came after another arrest of the Zimrights Director Okay Machisa in Harare last week. The exhibition was to show case pictures of the 2008 political violence. Machisa was arrested a day before the exhibition but was later released at the orders of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. The organisers later abandoned the exhibition which was to run for 10 days after police harrassment and hid the pictures at a secret location. Machisa has since gone into hiding.