Most of Zimbabwe's major political parties have roundly condemned the arrest and detention of Bulawayo visual artist Owen Maseko, detained last week for staging an exhibition with scenes of the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands.
Thabang Mathebula reported from Bulawayo that leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change formations led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, as well as the revived Zimbabwe African People's Union, called the arrest a breach of civil liberties that showed freedom of expression was still not guaranteed in the country.
Maseko’s exhibition included a painting showing President Robert Mugabe and the late liberation leader and Vice President Joshua Nkomo signing the 1988 unity accord which brought an end to conflict between their rival Zimbabwe African National Union and Zimbabwe African People’s Union, respectively, forming the present day ZANU-PF.
Nkomo is shown slumped over the table, blood flowing from his shoulders, whereas Mr. Mugabe sits upright. Behind is a row of men in dark glasses, presumably security service agents.
The Unity Accord, under which Mr. Mugabe, then prime minister, became president, and Nkomo vice president, ended the so-called Gukurahundi, a Shona word meaning "the early rain that blows away the chaff before the spring rains." Both sides took up arms, mainly divided along Shona and Ndebele ethnic lines, but the Matabeleland Ndebele were the main victims as the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade carried out massacres claiming thousands of lives.
Amnesty International weighed in on the Maseko case and other human rights abuses, urging President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai to condemn human rights violations and instruct judicial authorities to drop the charges against Maseko.
Amnesty said rights abuses violate the Global Political Agreement for power sharing by ZANU-PF and the two MDC wings, and set back national healing efforts.
Amnesty International Zimbabwe researcher Simeon Mawanza told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that his group will make formal representations to the government of Zimbabwe and the Southern African Development Community on rights violations.