Mhlanga, a resident artist at the Bulawayo Art Gallery, was arrested after he passed judgement on a poem brought by an unnamed artist to an exhibition.
“Styx challenged the poet on why only liberation war heroes from Mashonaland, and none from Matabeleland, were highlighted in the poem. The poet apparently reported him to the police and he was arrested,” his brother, Mlungisi, said on Monday.
Bulawayo police spokesman Inspector Mandlenkosi Moyo said he needed more time to check on details of Mhlanga’s detention on Monday evening.
But his brother said Styx, well-known among Matabeleland advocacy groups, had been told he faced a charge of “uttering words … with the intention to engender, promote or expose to hatred, contempt or ridicule ... a class of persons in Zimbabwe solely on account of their tribe.”
ZAPU spokesman Methuseli Moyo condemned Mhlanga’s arrest on Monday.“The charges are clearly frivolous,” Moyo said. “Police are intent on clamping down on free speech, and those old enough to have witnessed Gukurahundi cannot fail to see similar patterns in the police conduct then and now.”
Last week, police rounded up activists from the Women of Zimbabwe Arise pressure group after they gathered at a house in Ntumbane suburb and expressed concern at the relocation of companies from Bulawayo to other provinces. The women also planned to stage demonstrations outside a local primary school which had raised “teacher incentives”.
Police charged them with “promoting public violence and bigotry”.Last Friday, the former ZAPU leader Paul Siwela and three other men from the Mthwakazi Liberation Front – an advocacy group pushing for a separate Ndebele state -- were arrested and charged with treason.