BULAWAYO – While faith-based organisations in Bulawayo mooted the idea of inviting President Emmerson Mnangagwa on the last day of 2017 that together they could thank God for a peaceful transition following a military intervention code-named Operation Restore Legacy, members of Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) were busy plotting an ambush.
And on this day that Mnangagwa came to Bulawayo as a guest at an event meant to thank God, the president was rudely reminded of a dark era — Gukurahundi — by placard-waving protestors from MRP.
While the clergy hailed Mnangagwa’s ascendency to power with prayers for wise leadership, the placard-waving protestors caught everyone by surprise.
Southern News caught up with Brighton Ithuteng Sibanda, 36 who is one of the eight protestors who was later arrested and allegedly brutally assaulted.
He said theirs was a planned thing. “When we went in the hall we were about 15 and our mission was to send a message to the president for him to address issues to do with Gukurahundi.
“Part of our grievances was the closing of industries in Bulawayo and prioritisation of employing local people. We also wanted to inform him that local resources should not be exploited and they have to benefit local people.”
Sibanda who is nursing a forehead injury said they had banners stashed in their pockets when they gained entrance, hence eluding the security team.
“Ushers in the hall wanted us to sit separately but we chose where we could be together. We agreed to lift our banners at once when the president rose to address the gathering. Everyone stood up as the president headed for the pulpit.
“When everybody got seated, we remained standing with our banners lifted in protest which then attracted the attention of everyone.
“For about a minute there was silence as the president temporarily halted his speech. He saw that attention had been attracted elsewhere but I doubt if he saw the messages from where he was,” Sibanda said.
He said after security details in plain clothes checked what was on “our banners”, the police were immediately ordered to take them out of the hall.
“While outside we started singing but the army stopped us at gun point. We were then ordered to sit down. Zanu PF youths led by Magura Charumbira and some CIO operative scame out as well and began beating us.
“They lifted me and threw me to the ground and I collapsed.
“They moved us to a secluded place where they continued beating us.
“I temporarily lost consciousness which I later regained after they poured water on me,” he said.
Sibanda said the torture lasted for almost an hour as Mnangagwa continued with his speech.
“During the torture there was discussion on the next step with one senior police officer suggesting we be released but members of the army said we should be taken to the barracks for further disciplinary action.
“We were then taken to Brady Barracks and handed over to the military intelligence department,” he narrated.
Contrary to information that was circulated on social media, the eight were never tortured at the army barracks or at the police station.
“At the barracks they only took photos and recorded all our personal details. At around 8pm the police came and took us to Central Police Station. While there, they denied us medical attention.
“The following day when our lawyer came late in the day, three of us were taken to hospital. One of us had an eye injury and the other lady had suffered back pains and head injuries.”
The eight spent two nights at the police station only to be released at the courts on the third day without charge after the State failed to come up with a concrete charge against them.