Three activists in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe were arrested on Unity Day, which is a day observed in the country since 1987 to mark the signing of the Unity Accord between two major political parties.The activists, Thamsanqa Ncube, Melusi Nyathi, and Samkeliso Tshuma, were participating in a memorial for the victims of the Gukurahundi massacres and calling for national peace when they were arrested. They have been charged with “participating in a public gathering” with the intent of promoting violence.
Amnesty International has condemned the arrests, stating that the activists have not committed a crime and should be released immediately and unconditionally.
The organization has also criticized the authorities for their attempts to silence those who seek to remember the victims of the Gukurahundi massacres and for their destruction of memorial plaques put in place by local activists.
“It is disgraceful that Thamsanqa Ncube, Melusi Nyathi, and Samkeliso Tshuma were arrested on Unity Day as they called for national peace and sought to honor the victims of the Gukurahundi massacres,” said Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East and Southern Africa. “Their arrest marks the latest attempt by the authorities to silence those who want to keep victims’ memories alive.”
Thamsanqa Ncube is the Deputy Chairperson of Ibhetshu Likazulu, while Melusi Nyathi is a founding member of the same NGO based in Bulawayo, which seeks justice for victims of genocide and related human rights abuses.
Samkeliso Tshuma is the founder and director of The Girls Table, an NGO that advocates for the rights of women and girls in Zimbabwe.
“The three activists arrested today have not committed a single crime – they should be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Mwangovya. “The authorities prevaricated over declaring their charges, which offers a clear indication that they were arrested arbitrarily and sends a chilling message to other activists in the country.”
The arrests have drawn widespread condemnation from human rights groups, who have called for the immediate release of the activists and for the authorities to respect the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.