BULAWAYO – For the second time in a row, a Daily News discussion forum in Bulawayo on the legacy of the late national hero, Joshua Nkomo, was banned by police yesterday — on the flimsy excuse that it was “political”.
The Officer Commanding Bulawayo Province Chief Superintendent Rangwani summoned the Daily News’s Southern Region operations head, Ray Matikinye to Bulawayo Central Police Station early yesterday to deliver the news, almost a month after the paper notified them of the event as required under the draconian and anti-democracy Public Order and Security Act (Posa).
ANZ Group Editor Stanley Gama said the inexplicable banning of any gatherings to remember, honour and discuss Nkomo’s contribution to Zimbabwe did not engender confidence about the government’s Police ban Joshua Nkomo lecture commitment to both media freedom and free polls next year.
“I think the media community and Zimbabweans at large have a good reason to be very afraid as we approach national elections slated for next year. What with Big Brother, in the form of police and the intelligence service, watching and meddling in everything because they can?” he said.
The ban of the discussion forum, which was to take place in the city on Thursday, is the second one this year after suspected CIO operatives ordered the Daily News to cancel a Joshua Nkomo memorial lecture in July that was billed to take place at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust).
Reports then indicated President Robert Mugabe wanted to be part of the discussion.
In the latest assault on the freedom of expression in the country, Rangwani yesterday revoked the clearance that the Daily News had been granted as required by Posa, citing the “political” nature of the discussion forum and the “profile” of the headline discussants.
“We have decided not to sanction such a meeting because of its political nature. You are quite aware of the provisions of Posa and by virtue of the profile of the main speakers and the emotive nature of the debate surrounding Dr Joshua Nkomo, we cannot allow you to go ahead with this meeting,” Chief Superintendent Rangwani said.
“You should be aware of the consequences if you dare go ahead with the event,” he warned ominously.
Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa, historian and academic Phathisa Nyathi and retired veteran journalist and former PF Zapu cadre Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu, were due to address the meeting whose focus was on the legacy of the late veteran nationalist Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo.
The discussion was also expected to bring to the fore different perspectives key to solving the nation’s myriad socio-economic and political challenges.
Civic society groups, students, academics and political party representatives had been invited to grace the much anticipated forum.
Top human rights lawyer Aleck Muchadehama said the gathering is not of apolitical nature and the discussions are organised for academic discourse.
He said no notice is required to be given under Posa for such gatherings.
Muchadehama added that such meetings are specifically exempt from the requirements of Posa.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, director of Zimbabwe Democracy Institute said: “It is clear that police are receiving instructions from Zanu PF. It is a result of the misguided views that the party has that the celebration of national heroes is a preserve for Zanu PF.
“The two (Zanu PF and police) should be ashamed of the treacherous behaviour related to the legacy of Nkomo. Banning a newspaper lecture that wants to celebrate the liberation hero shows their insincerity. It is clear that they did not like Nkomo given what they did to him after 1980. But they must allow Zimbabweans who want to celebrate their independence through their national hero do that.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo declined to comment.
Spokesperson for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC Douglas Mwonzora said: “The ban is unreasonable and unjustified. Zimbabweans should be allowed to discuss issues that affect them. The ban is high-handed and designed to mask Zanu PF’ incompetence and intolerance.”