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ACTION ALERT: Stand up for Owen Maseko; support an artist's right to free expression

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="560" caption="Painting by Owen Maseko, from a Bulawayo exhibition that opened last night"]Painting by Owen Maseko, from a Bulawayo exhibition that open last night[/caption]

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="197" caption="Owen Maseko"][/caption]

Owen Maseko the world famous Zimbabwean artist has been arrested. His crime? He dared to be bold. Maseko opened his exhibition last night at the Bulawayo National Art Gallery, an artist’s impression of the harsh reality of Gukurahundi as well as the decades of oppression and violence that have characterised Zimbabwe. In a combination of graffiti, 3D installations and his painting Maseko unflinchingly dared to tell the truth, adding his usual and whimsical element of humour. Visit his website here.

Voti Thebe, the person in charge of the Bulawayo National Arts Gallery, was also arrested.

Stand up for the freedom of expression in Zimbabwe and help free Maseko. He is being held at Bulawayo Central Police Station, charges have not been made, but they are refusing to release him. Because he has been arrested on a Friday, Maseko is likely to spend the whole weekend in one of Zimbabwe's filthy cells.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="560" caption="Passers-by crane their necks to see the artwork on display"][/caption]

On paper, Zimbabwe's constitution protects freedom of expression but in practice, when it comes to expressing criticism of Zanu PF atrocities, the police have ignored this.

The current constitution says:

"no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, and freedom from interference with his correspondence"

This link to our constitution resource shows that even Zanu PF's preferred version for a new constitution in the future - the Kariba Draft - supports rights to freedom of expression. Specifically, it preserves the

  1. freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and information regardless of frontiers;
  2. freedom of the press and other media of communication;
  3. freedom of artistic creativity;

Maseko's arrest today begs the question: can Zimbabweans really ever believe that Zanu PF will protect and honour individual rights?

Maseko has shown courage in speaking the truth that we all know. Stand by him and demand his immediate release.


Please call the police and ask that Owen Maseko and Voti Thebe are released immediately. Point out to them that both the current constitution, and the Kariba Draft, protect an individuals right to free expression. Remind them that their role is to follow the rule of the law; ask them what grounds they have for arresting Maseko and Thebi.

Please be calm and polite when talking to the police. Ask the person you are speaking to to carry a message to Maseko - ask him/her to tell him the world is watching and standing by them.

Please join our Facebook group. We will be uploading images of some of the artwork that the police and Mugabe do not want the world to see to both Facebook and Flickr. Please share these images widely with everyone you know. Please ask them to support Maseko's freedom, just as he supports ours.

These are the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)  telephone numbers to call in Bulawayo.

Charge office

+263 (9) 72515

Central charge office hotlines:

+263 (9) 72525

+263 (9) 66306

+263 (9) 66340

ZRP press and public relations:

+263 (9) 60358


Love & Compassion says:

How sad that people still live in such "dark ages", that people allow themselves to be dictated to by others what is right or wrong. So many are not given a choice and are too weak to be bold and be their true selves. My prayers and thoughts are there for Owen. Owen, be strong. No matter what they do to you physically, it will never change the beautiful free spirit you are within. That free spirit within is something they will NEVER understand because of their narrow mindedness and weakness and many of them surely envy you and others fear you because of their own insecurities!

Submitted by Love & Compassion on 29 March 2010 - 10:55am
God Knows says:

Owen Iam with you, and I pray to God that you will be released immediately.Our God is the God of miracles.Even though you walk in the vallies as dark as death,he is with you,He prepares a six coarse meal in the present of your enemies.Paul and Silas were release.BELIEVE.AMEN

Submitted by God Knows on 29 March 2010 - 11:40am
Simphiwe says:

am glad that i responded to the invite last Thursday to attend Maseko's launch.
it was a moving exhibition. But on Friday afternoon i was deeply disappointed at the news that he has been 'picked up for questioning" But the regime showed be reminded that “You might arrest Owen Maseko but every artist feels the same. Artists are the mirror of society and covering the mirror will not change one’s image”

Submitted by Simphiwe on 29 March 2010 - 3:06pm
kim berman says:

Release Maseko Now
Please add my name to the petition
Thank you

Submitted by kim berman on 31 March 2010 - 10:41pm
Meddi says:

Hi, I am French and I want to let you know Owen Maseko doesn't fight alone. I am a reader of the Sama Gazette Website and everyone there supports Maseko. You can read the post published on the Sama Gazette:

We all commented a lot about the arrest and we all spread the word about it. I didn't know Owen Maseko before I read this post about his arrest but now I support him!!

I don't know if the Sama Gazette will go further into their support to Owen Maseko (although they already did a lot raising awareness about it) but the community of the Sama Readers will keep spreading the word, you can be sure of that!!


Submitted by Meddi on 3 April 2010 - 11:58am
tc says:

Dear Sokwanele,
what is happening now with this case? Please keep us informed.

Submitted by tc on 16 April 2010 - 9:42am
Sokwanele says:

We've updated this story on a new post titled Owen Maseko’s case remanded to May.

Submitted by Sokwanele on 16 April 2010 - 8:11pm
Shepherd Mabhena says:

You are a hero Owen. Let the truth be told and pepetrators of violence be exposed. You have and shall always have our support in this struggle to hold those who have something to hide accountable.

Submitted by Shepherd Mabhena on 28 May 2010 - 1:27am

Hi, I am French and I want to let you know Owen Masko doesn’t fight alone. I am a reader of the Gazette Website and everyone there supports Maseko. i would like to say thanks.

Submitted by Support for Tec... on 15 June 2010 - 7:16am
his wacthing /Jesus says:

his watching He will make a way for you 2;brothers, keep a song in you heart , His song and praise
ncy Oxford UK

Submitted by his wacthing /Jesus on 25 August 2010 - 4:26pm


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