BY SILAS NKALA
HUMAN rights activist and director of Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation, Mthulisi Hanana, yesterday revealed that he was the brains behind the #ZanuPFMustGo masks project, which was later hijacked by opposition parties and a Zanu PF faction for their own political ends.
Hanana, who went into hiding after suspected State security agents raided his Bulawayo home in the run-up to the July 31 anti-corruption protests, claimed that security forces held his wife and two children hostage and threatened to kill them for refusing to disclose his whereabouts.
The raid was carried out after images of Hanana and activist Josphat Ngulube distributing #ZanuPFMustGo face masks in the city went viral on social media platforms.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said Hanana’s wife, Sanele (31) and children were traumatised by suspected security agents who broke into their home.
Sanele was summoned by the police following the raid and a statement was recorded in the presence of her lawyer.
Speaking from his hideout, Hanana said: “The mass movement started as a joke. Someone just said he was giving away money to someone who will come up with an innovative mask idea. So I just said I can make #ZanuPFMustGo masks and we decided to make 10 and posted them on Twitter and Facebook. People loved them and they started placing orders.
“So the increasing demand gave rise to an idea where we felt that democratic space was closing because the government did not want people to protest or petition or express their views citing COVID-19 reasons. So we thought maybe one of the ways to make sure that democratic space remains open and free speech and free thought was to make masks with a message. Instead of writing a petition, you write your message on the mask.”
“Then we started making a lot of masks and devised means of distributing them to all parts of the country using different modes of transport and we were getting orders via Twitter. But now the challenge is that the government thinks there is a sinister plot around them, there is basically nothing besides people expressing themselves that they are fed up with Zanu PF’s arrogance and incompetence in terms of running the country,” Hanana said.
“Unfortunately, it seems we have been caught up in the crossfire of internal fights within Zanu PF. Now we are told that flyers with #ZanuPFMustGo were found in a politburo member (Claveria Chizema)’s house. It’s two totally separate things. As far as demonstrations are concerned #ZanuPFMustGo masks were not for the (July 31) demonstration. But our posters were clear that demo or no demo, we need to keep the democratic space open. We need to make sure that people keep on protesting even after the demonstration.”
Hanana said even if demonstrations fail, the message was still alive despite the Zanu PF administration clamping down on their efforts.
Ngulube and journalist Mduduzi Mathuthu also went into hiding after their homes were raided by alleged State operatives last week ahead of the demonstrations.
Mathuthu’s nephews and sister were abducted from his home after security details failed to locate him.
One of the abductees, Tawanda Muchehiwa, is currently admitted at a private health facility after he was tortured and dumped near his home in Mahatshula on Saturday.