FORMER archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church, Bulawayo Diocese, Pius Ncube, on Saturday attacked police, who blocked a Gukurahundi prayer meeting that had been scheduled to take place in the city, saying they had no mandate to stop people from meeting with God.
The prayer meeting had been organised by a Bulawayo-based pressure group, Ibhetshu Likazulu and was slated for the Baptist Church at 10am.
However, before the service could start, two plainclothed police officers arrived at the venue and declared that the gathering was illegal and asked those at the church to disperse.
“Our intelligence sources told us that your purported prayer meeting is not a meeting, but a demonstration and you can no longer go ahead with it,” one of the detectives said, much to the amazement of those gathered.
The meeting had been cleared by the police. Those gathered outside the Presbyterian Church conducted brief prayers following the announcement.
The blocking of the meeting did not go down well with the outspoken Ncube, who confronted the cops and asked them who they were to stop people from meeting with God in prayer.
“You cannot stop us from meeting with God,” Ncube said. “Who are you to do that?”
An Ibhetshu Likazulu official, Mbuso Fuzwayo, said the development was disappointing and an infringement of people’s rights to freedom of association as enshrined in the new Constitution.
“The police are telling us that their intelligence sources established that we are not conducting a meeting, but a demonstration, so our meeting should not go ahead,” he said.
Fuzwayo said the detectives indicated that the meeting was meant to prop up the MDCs’ political agenda instead of praying for Gukurahundi victims. When people did not disperse immediately, the two detectives called the anti-riot police, which quickly deployed to ensure no meeting took place.
MDC Matabeleland South chairperson Pilate Ndebele who was in attendance, said the blocking of a peaceful prayer meeting by the police was a sign that people were still not free to associate as they wished and express themselves freely even after the adoption of the new Constitution.
He encouraged the people of Matabeleland to pray for the victims and surviving relatives of the Gukurahundi massacres.
“We will pray anywhere, in the bush and in various venues, and denying us a chance to pray in remembrance of victims of the killings is like forbidding people from conducting their traditional rituals like imibuyiso or ukuthethela and that is very unfair,” he said.
“We want to pray for our relatives who suffered at the hands of perpetrators of the Gukurahundi genocide and we even encourage our people who are abroad to gather in various places across the world to pray in remembrance of them.
Ndebele said this was important because innocent people were slaughtered for nothing.
Among other people who had attended the intended prayer meeting were former National Healing, Integration and Reconciliation co-minister Moses Mzila-Ndlovu, MDC Bulawayo spokesperson Edwin Ndlovu, MDC Bulawayo chairperson Oscar Ncube and losing Bubi House of Assembly independent candidate Ginneva Sibanda.