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Police temporarily block ZPRA ‘yellow t-shirts’ march

Police temporarily blocked a march that was organised by the ZPRA Veterans Association to commemorate the legacy of their former Commander in Chief, the late nationalist, Dr Joshua Nkomo on Saturday.

Dr Nkomo died on July 1, 1999, and the former freedom fighters had planned the march in his honour to remember his leadership and guidance that brought about independence in Zimbabwe.

The main reason cited for blocking the commemoration march was that the ZPRA veterans were wearing yellow t-shirts, a colour which is now associated with the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) led by Nelson Chamisa.

This reason, which the former freedom fighter heavily criticised, as they pointed out the police action was a partisan act influenced by the ruling party that was ‘unfairly’ using state resources to thwart other actors in the country.

The commemoration march was supposed to start from Masotsha Avenue and end at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo statue.

By 10 am, a group of  ZPRA veterans had gathered, wearing yellow T-shirts branded with their name, logo and demands.

However, the former freedom fighters were stopped by police at Third Avenue and Joshua Mqabuko who said they were conducting an illegal demonstration.

The police claimed their activity was politically motivated and influenced by a certain political party, which also features the yellow colour.

ZPRA Veterans Association Secretary-General, Petros Sibanda, told police that the yellow colour had always been their branding from way back and a colour that their revolutionary party ZAPU used ever since it was formed in 1961.

Sibanda added they had also received permission from one Officer Commanding Bulawayo District (the Dispol) to hold their commemorative walk.

But the police blocked the former fighters from proceeding further and ordered all of them to remove their yellow t-shirts.

As the leadership of the ZPRA veterans engaged the police, the former freedom fighters expressed outrage over the police act.

“We volunteered to go and fight, where others died for this country. What a shame,” said ZPRA Veterans Association Spokesperson, Buster Magwizi.

After brief consultations, the ZPRA Veterans SG was ordered to go to the Bulawayo Police Headquarters.

Before doing so, Sibanda informed the crowd it was best they cancel their programme and comply with the law as he also feared for the safety of the veterans.

But the veterans were adamant that they wanted to go to the statue until police conceded that the veterans walk in pairs until they reached the statue.

Magwizi concurred that the step taken by the police was “grossly unfair” and showed that there was no freedom anymore in Zimbabwe.

“I am not a coward but we listen to the law as Zimbabweans but as ZPRA veterans we no longer have any rights, which have been taken away from us. The right to demonstrate is a right but here we were not demonstrating but commemorating the day our Commander in Chief passed on,” he said.

“I sympathise with you lot because we no longer have freedom in this country anymore if we were ordered to remove our t-shirts and likened to a political party. We are not a political party and we wore this so that we can be identified in the melee of things. Now how can we do so when we don’t have our own insignia. It’s very bad in any case, we die the moment we stop talking about things that concern ourselves. If you are not aware you will not be able to do anything else.”

ZPRA Veterans Association National Coordinator, Tiisang Nare, added that the police action was disappointing as they had been given prior permission to hold the commemoration.

“There is nothing we can do since we are visitors to this country. We are stopped for wearing yellow t-shirts and even if we walk to the Nkomo statue our programme now has no meaning,” she lamented.

After a meeting with police authorities at their headquarters, the ZPRA veterans Association leadership was given permission to continue with their programme.

Ironically, the same police officers who had blocked the ZPRA cadres were now the ones who were controlling traffic by the Nkomo Statue.

Former War Veterans minister and Zanu PF political member Tshinga Dube, also an ex-ZPRA member, was supposed to be the guest of honour at the commemoration but reportedly left when he was informed of the preceding situation.

In an interview with CITE after the event, Magwizi revealed that police were also instructed to make sure the veterans removed their yellow t-shirts as that colour was associated with the opposition CCC.

“The police said they received several phone calls from unnamed top people who told them to stop us. It’s sad that police are now influenced by politics of another party,” he said.

Nevertheless, the ZPRA Veterans continued with their programme, which albeit had been shortened, performed the toyi-toyi dance for their late commander in Chief and also sang his favourite war songs.

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One Comment

  1. This is ridiculous,is Zimbabwe a free country? I begin to wonder,The very comrades who suffered during the war to liberate this country are blocked from commemorating the death of such a gallant soldier, Father Zimbabwe, just because of a T/shirt, yellow in colour.where are we going as a nation? As old as they are,the (war vets)are forced to strip in public,Is this the Zimbabwe they suffered for,Mwari pindirai,Sisize Nkosi yami.

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