Harare has banned the works of prominent visual artist Owen Maseko depicting the Fifth Brigade atrocities of the 1980s in which an estimated 20 000 civillians, mostly supporters of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU), were killed by the army unit.
The civilians were massacred in the Matableland and Midlands Provinces and Mr Mugabe's only apology was that it was a "moment of madness."
Maseko’s works were banned under the Censorship and Entertainment Act once used by the Ian Smith regime to suppress the rise of nationalist movements in the then Rhodesia.
Maseko’s lawyer, Lizwe Jamela, said it is surprising that the government has banned his client’s pieces of art displayed at the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo using an achaic law not related in any way to the non-pornographic displays.
In a government gazette published last Friday, the government banned “the showing of video clips with effigies, words and paintings on the walls of the National Art Gallery set up by Maseko”.
Jamela told VOA's Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that the ban is meant to ensure that members of the public do not have access to the exhibition even if Maseko is acquitted in the courts of law of various charges associated with the Fifth Brigade exhibition.
Meanwhile, Vote Thebe, the Director of the National Art Gallery and the sculptor of a controversial nude statue, ‘Looking into the Future’, is expected to appear in court on Tuesday on charges of allowing Maseko to hold the art exhibition without a licence.
Thebe will also be charged under the Censorship and Entertainment Act for allegedly keeping a nude statue at the gallery showing male genital organs. ‘Looking into the Future’ was pulled down from Bulawayo’s Tower Block gardens in the 1980s after the local authority was accused of aiding Thebe to mount an offensive piece of art in public.
The then Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, the late Enos Chikowore, said the statue was an insult to the public and mockery to the then ruling party, Zanu PF.
Police closed Maseko’s exhibition on March 26, showing President Mugabe and his crack army unit dripping with blood of cowed innocent civilians, 24 hours after it was mounted at the gallery.
He was then arrested and granted bail a few days after police closed a photography exhibition in Harare showing human rights violations by Mr Mugabe’s supporters.
Mr Mugabe is accused of unleashing the Fifth Brigade on unarmed supporters of ZAPU then led by his bitter rival, Joshua Nkomo.