Rooftop Promotions’ 10-member team showcasing the play Rituals was arrested on Wednesday last week and briefly detained overnight at Cashel Valley Police Station after two performances of the drama, which seeks to promote national healing and reconciliation.
Those arrested included eight artists, a driver and the tour manager in a case that Rooftop producer Daves Guzha described as “disrespectful” to artistic endeavours and a threat to the inclusive government’s commitment to national healing and reconciliation.
Those arrested were Chipo Bizure, popularly known as Eve in local soap Studio 263, Zenzo Nyathi, who plays the character Mzambani in another local soapAmakorokoza, as well as artists Silvanos Mudzvova, Mandla Moyo, Joyce Mpofu and Rutendo Chigudu.
The team spent Wednesday and Thursday nights in police custody before they were taken to Mutare Magistrates’ Court, which ruled that the state should pursue the case by way of summons.
They were represented by lawyers Cosmas Chibaya and Blessing Nyamaropa from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Guzha said upon arrival at the court at 12:25pm, the prosecution advised the police, after vetting the case, to compile a full docket and submit it for set-down.
“They were released less than 10 minutes after arrival without even appearing before a magistrate and police are to proceed by way of summons,” Guzha said.
Rooftop Promotions holds a valid censorship certificate from the Censorship Board, which approved the play.
Guzha said the whole incident was disturbing because they had notified the police as required by the Public Order and Security Act and had done 16 performances of the same play in the province late last year without any problems.
He said a sergeant major, who refused to disclose his name, said they were arrested for “criminal nuisance” and “disturbing peace”.
Rooftop Promotions marketing and sales executive Tafadzwa Muzondo said it was heart-breaking to see “the country’s arts talent being criminalised for doing a play on healing and reconciliation”.
Written by Stephen Chifunyise and directed and produced by Daves Guzha, the story is told in panoramic fashion, chronicling how community-initiated cultural solutions meet with serious challenges which prevent their conclusive enactment or achievement of the desired results.
Rituals was performed at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation indaba which brought together stakeholders from all of Zimbabwe’s political parties, including the Organ on National Healing and Reconciliation.