Leaders of the pressure groups told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that strategies were being put in place to ensure the North Koreans are made aware they are not welcome in the western part of Zimbabwe because of their complicity in human rights violations in the 1980s.
More than 20 000 people, including women and children, were killed by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade when Prime Minister Robert Mugabe unleashed the crack unit on the region at the height of political conflict between him and the late Joshua Nkomo.
Mugabe has not openly apologised and has rejected pleas for compensation of the victims, acknowledging only that the massacre did take place during “a moment of madness”.
Now the people of the region say it is highly provocative for government to bring North Koreans to the region, invoking memories of the murder of their relatives and loved ones.
At the forefront of the mobilisation is Ibhetshu likazulu, a Bulawayo-based pressure group, ZimRights, Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network, National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations and several human rights groups.
Mqondisi Moyo from Ibhetshu likazulu said a committee was already in place in Bulawayo and they were yet to come up with dates of holding public meetings and demonstrations.
He said: “We want to hold a public meeting where we want to conscientise members of the public of the visit by the North Korean team and why we do not want this team training in Bulawayo. Thereafter, we will set a date for a public demonstration where we will march to show our disapproval of the team camping in our city.”
Tourism minister has Walter Muzembi confirmed there was simmering discontent surrounding the proposed North Korean team camping in Bulawayo and said the matter was being discussed at cabinet level.
Mzembi has been trying to plead with the people of Matabeleland to drop the protest plans saying they should not mix sport with politics and that they should allow national healing to take place.
“The issue is now at cabinet level and we are discussing an alternative venue for the team to train. However, I cannot go into any more detail,” Mzembi told the Independent on Wednesday. “We will inform the public of the decision that will be made.”
The Minister of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture, David Coltart, distance himself from the matter.
“At the moment I have not been advised officially that the North Korean team will be training in Bulawayo. I have only heard and seen it in the press, so I cannot comment on the issue until I know for sure,” he said.
Tangai Chipangura/Fortune Dhlamini-Moyo