Nhimbe Trust, YCC & Bluez Café under siege from ZANU PF youths

Partners Nhimbe Trust, Youth Contact Centre (YCC) and Bluez Café were under siege at their premises at 97A Lobengula Street in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, on Monday 9 April 2018, and the Executive Director Josh Nyapimbi held hostage from 11am to 12 noon by three members of the ZANU PF party’s Bulawayo Province.

The perpetrators were Andrew Manjoro, former Youth Secretary for Economic Affairs in
Youth League in Bulawayo, Gordon Dube and Makamure. Police were instructed by the
ZANU PF Provincial leadership not to intervene, and complied.

Persecution of Nhimbe Trust and YCC by the ZANU PF Party has been an annual
occurrence since 2008. It has taken many forms including harassment and intimidation of
staff, hostile occupation and displacement of staff from offices, extorting money and theft of
office accessories in the process.

NHIMBE TRUST – Nhimbe Trust’s mandate and scope of work is aptly captured in its vision statement
that strives for, “…a vibrant and sustainable Zimbabwean cultural sector, sufficiently regulated and well resourced.” This indelibly cast vision is further broken down through our mission statement, “To
advocate for public policies that recognize, enhance and foster cultural diversity for cultural expressions; to contribute to the socio-economic development of Zimbabwe.”

The YOUTH CONTACT CENTRE (YCC) is a Bulawayo-based Zimbabwean NGO, established in 1976
(PVO 24/1976) to pursue the following aims and objectives:

• Provide demand-driven and tailored vocational education and training programmes for young
people, including agriculture at the Ekuthuleni Farm project

• Promote international cultural exchanges; arts and culture through the work of the Bluez Café (a
partnership between YCC and Nhimbe Trust)

• Provide a community core-working space for a wide-range of activities
BLUEZ CAFÉ – Cognisant of the economic potential of the arts and the need to create free, diverse
means of cultural expression, Nhimbe Trust, in partnership with the Youth Contact Centre (YCC),
established the Bluez Café in Bulawayo as an inclusive enabling facility, at which performing artists and producers of culture may develop, promote and perform their works, and participate in furthering
acceptance, tolerance, peace, and nation-building. The Bluez Café was officially opened on 25 May
2017, endorsed by leading arts practitioners as a much-needed creative development space in
Zimbabwe’s cultural landscape. Since its opening, it has already provided an extraordinary service for
people of culture in Bulawayo hosting public events, meetings, workshops, auditions, and equipped
rehearsal/training facilities.

After removal from City Council property to make way for a council construction project, Bluez Cafe
recently relocated to an adjacent property owned by the Youth Contact Centre, who envisage building a
state-of-the-art cultural centre appropriate to Bulawayo’s status as ‘City of Culture’, with plans already drawn up for a multi-faceted facility to accommodate performance stages, rehearsal/training rooms, library and offices. This is now under threat.

On 18 May 2017, The Patriot, a local newspaper headquartered in Harare, ran a misleading
article entitled ‘Wolves in sheep skins’. The article went to great lengths to attempt to
articulate how Nhimbe Trust and other cultural organizations have become ‘regime change’
organisations. Nhimbe Trust would not have bothered to respond to the article had it been
written as an opinion piece in a publication like The Patriot, for obvious reasons. However,
the story was packaged and presented as a news article, which sent the misleading
message that it is a factual narrative and demanded a response.

With this new attack, Nhimbe Trust has elected to make this public alert to expose the
hypocrisy and double-standards characteristic of the ruling Party’s body politic, in calling for
Peace and widely broadcasting the mantra “Zimbabwe is open for business” – while violating
property rights and trampling on the Rule of Law. This is surely a message strong enough to
influence the international community – which the government of Zimbabwe is frantically
courting – to ‘close’ business with Zimbabwe.

This practice of the old school is unacceptable – and suicidal – in a Zimbabwe open for
business. The Rule of Law and property rights are sacrosanct and protected by the
Constitution of Zimbabwe. We take it that factual errors and speculative partisan politicallymotivated
violence occasionally targeting the three organisations on one hand, and gross
acts of harassment and intimidation on the other hand; are not borne out of professional
mistakes on the part of ZANU PF media mouthpieces or its unruly members, but rather a
reflection of political and other ulterior motives that are aimed at damaging reputations, for
reasons best known to the Party.

The recent harassment has ulterior motives and is in contempt of a High Court Ruling
handed down in favour of YCC in 2017 against similar politically trumped-up charges.
As partner organizations founded on progressive principles expressed in our vision and
mission statements, we therefore dismiss the current partisan political attempts to bring our
standings into disrepute, with the contempt they deserve.

To the contrary, our track record shows that we have been at the epicentre of the struggles
for the youth and arts to operate in a secure and competitively regulated space, to guarantee
that they thrive and succeed in line with the quest for the country’s social and economic
development. We enjoy mutual and cordial relations amongst the Executive, Legislative and
Judiciary in as far as the advancement of the National Constitution’s Bill of Rights is
concerned, as well as alignment of legislation with the Constitution.

We do so as law-respecting citizens of the republic and remain subservient to the
supremacy of the Constitution of Zimbabwe (2013), which fireproofs the rights of young
people, and the right to creativity for the peoples of Zimbabwe.

We therefore invite the post-November 2017 ZANU PF Party to join our voice in our demand
for a democratic and sustainable regulatory framework to govern the arts, and ensuring safe
spaces for youth, such as the Bluez Café, free of partisan political interferences.
As we head towards the 2018 elections, we take this opportunity to call upon the
Government to:

• To provide for the biometric registration of voters, to allow voters to be registered without
having to prove residence, and to ensure that voter registration certificates are not used
for voting purposes if their holders are not registered on a voters roll.

• To remove ZEC’s monopoly on the provision of voter education.

• Guarantee the safety of youth within and without the creative civil society while they
undertake their constitutionally-protected creative work as outlined in Section 61(1)(a);

• Open up the airwaves so that there is healthy competition for the development of the
content-generation industry;

• Launch the new National Arts, Culture and Heritage Policy and provide the necessary
resources for its implementation;

• Align the National Arts Council Act amongst other contentious cultural governance frameworks, with the national Constitution and international best practices.

These are some of the key issues that we believe genuine youth, cultural and creative
industry stakeholders are grappling with and yearning for the speedy resolution of; as
opposed to speculative stories which lack validity when tested against ethical journalistic
standards, and the harassment of civil society organisation going about their work in
conformity to the laws of Zimbabwe.

Nhimbe Trust, YCC and Bluez Café therefore put it on record to our valued stakeholders that
we remain committed to our core mandates within the confines of the Laws of Zimbabwe
and call upon our stakeholders to express solidarity to our cause and denounce the
continued targeted partisan politically motivated harassment from unruly elements within
ZANU PF Party.

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