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Gukurahundi display test case set for Wednesday
Alex Bell, SW Radio Africa
October 29, 2013
View this article
on the SW Radio Africa website
artist Owen Maseko, who is accused of insulting President Robert
Mugabe with his Gukurahundi atrocities exhibition, will have his
case heard by the Constitutional Court Wednesday.
Maseko was arrested
on March 26th 2010 for setting up an exhibition highlighting key
elements pertaining to the murder of thousands of civilians by Mugabe’s
government in the 1980s.
staged at the Bulawayo Art Gallery, had barely just opened when
security agents arrested Maseko and charged him with undermining
the authority of or insulting the President. He was also accused
of causing offence to persons of a particular race or religion.
arrest Maseko was detained for six days, for the offences which
carry a possible 20-year jail term.
appeared before a Bulawayo magistrate in September 2010. The matter
was referred to the Supreme Court (now the Constitutional Court)
after Maseko’s lawyers argued that the charges against him
were unconstitutional, and applied to have the case heard by a higher
The lawyers argued that the charges against Maseko infringe on his
freedom of expression and of conscience.
Mazhandu, who was hearing the case, granted the application and
ruled that it was a fact that Gukurahundi - the state-sanctioned
murder and torture of more than 20, 000 civilians in Matebeleland
and the Midlands - took place.
the ConCourt is expected to decide whether works of artistic creativity
can be subjected to prosecution under Section 31 and 33 of the Criminal
Law (Codification and Reform) Act without infringing on sections
18, 19 and 20 of the Constitution.
One of Maseko’s
lawyers Jeremiah Bamu told SW Radio Africa that he is hopeful the
outcome of Wednesday’s hearing will be in his client’s
Tuesday, Bamu said: “We are asking the ConCourt to determine
whether or not there was any violation of Maseko’s freedom
of expression, freedom of thought and of conscience.
want the court to ascertain whether the prosecution against Maseko
curtails his artistic freedoms. We are hopeful that the court will
agree that as an artist, our client is entitled to comment on social
fact that it is publicly acknowledged that there was a Gukurahundi
– should be one of those instances where Maseko is allowed
to hold exhibitions and any piece of art centered on that,”
the lawyer, the insult allegations arise from “some effigies
which were part of the exhibition which the State claims make it
seem as if the President has a desire to remain in office until
the charges, and insists that his creative freedoms entitle him
to stage exhibitions on any topic which enable him to engage in
This view was
shared by media watchdog the Media
Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), which condemned Maseko’s
arrest and the State ban on his exhibition.
The group said
banning any media or artistic expression of the Gukurahundi, was
an attempt by the State to “suppress unpleasant elements of
Zimbabwe’s history that should be openly debated”.
In a statement
released in 2010, MISA further stated: “This ban does not
only mirror the lingering paranoia of free flowing information that
reflects badly on some arms of government, but also demonstrates
the need for extensive media law reforms that go beyond the much
publicised repressive laws such as AIPPA,
broadcasting and criminal defamation laws.”
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