“When I heard of a desperate attempt to stifle this display, I was not angry, but I felt sorry for them,” said Tsvangirai referring to police and officials who ordered the photos’ seizure. “Anyone who believes they can deny the truth of our past is delusional. Covering up old wounds can only make them fester. We must face them so we don’t perpetuate the wrongs of the past.”
ZimRights, the organisers of the photo exhibition at Delta Gallery entitled “Reflections”, had to approach the High Court to have the pictures returned after the police detained the organisation’s director Okay Machisa and confiscated 65 pictures.
High Court Judge Justice Samuel Kudya granted the order and the exhibition went ahead as planned. The raid took place on Tuesday, a day before the official opening.
Tsvangirai said the exhibition showed nothing new but was a true reflection of what happened in 2008.
“There is nothing new in this story. It reminds us of the trauma that we went through as a nation. The reason why we are having this inclusive government is because of our desire to end the suffering of our people and we say never again should we see a repeat of this,” said Tsvangirai.
He said he has “heard cries” for revenge from the majority of people and Zimbabwe risks sliding into the abyss of political violence if justice is not done.
“There is need to strike a balance between the cries of the victims and the fears of the perpetrators. If that balance is not there, there will never be peace in this country. When I go around the country I hear cries for revenge from victims but I shudder to think how that can bring back the loss of the loved ones, a broken limb or leg,” he said.
The PM said he was aware that there are people who are defending what was going on because they benefited from the crisis.
“Forgiveness cannot happen in a vacuum. There cannot be real forgiveness without justice. When leaders talk of an end to political violence it must cascade down to the grassroots,” Tsvangirai told the guests who included top government officials, foreign diplomats and rights activists.
Macdonald Lewanika, head of Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe, an alliance of reform and civic advocacy groups, said the transitional government was required by the power-sharing agreement to uphold the rule of law.
“This is what some people appear to be scared of,” he said, referring to some members of the security forces loyal to President Robert Mugabe.
In a banning order, police demanded the organisers provide “confirmation from all people appearing in your pictures that they consented to have their pictures exhibited”.
The exhibition narrates the story of Zimbabwe’s political violence from March 11 2007 when the police blocked a Save Zimbabwe Campaign prayer meeting. It will be held for 10 days in Harare before being showcased in Zimbabwe’s major cities.
One photo shows former opposition leader Tsvangirai, his face swollen after he was assaulted by police two years before he joined the coalition government with Mugabe in February last year.