Galas promote political violence — Mhlanga

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Award-winning playwright Cont Mhlanga on Wednesday said political violence in Zimbabwe had its genesis in the nationalist politics of the 1960s and the national galas organised by the Ministry of Information were some of the tools for promoting it.

Mhlanga, who was addressing fellow artists at the Intwasa Arts Festival’s seminar on art, culture, conflict andreconciliation in Bulawayo, said the use of art in political violence became organised with the introduction of galas by Zanu PF.

“I had never seen a situation where art was used to fuel conflict until in the last six years at national galas where they (leaders) used art to fuel conflict against the opposition whom they called ‘imperialist stooges’,” Mhlanga said.

“They would put over 5 000 people in a stadium and start shouting ‘Phansi labathengisi’ (down with sellouts) referring to the opposition, and in the process encourage people to look at them (opposition) in another light and therefore go out and beat and burn the opposition.”

Mhlanga said during the era of the nationalist politics, music and dance art forms were also used for political violence.

“As young people then, we used a lot of song and dance to intimidate. Even today, if a group of soldiers were to run down the streets singing and dancing, we will shiver, isn’t it?

“We didn’t use drama; we used songs, music and dance. There were songs, especially Chachacha by a Congolese group, which became popular across Africa. There were also songs like Tshisa Ipimpi, Mtshaye Aze Afe, Ayangqikaza Amagwala and all these songs were meant to intimidate people and ensure that they towed the line,” he said.

Veteran actor/producer/director Daves Guzha said politicians were not always agreeable to the use of art in reconciliation and narrated the challenges that his production Rituals went through.

“Rituals became the first play in post independence Zimbabwe to have a full trial in court and we won the case against the State. We have achieved our goals of using Rituals for national healing, but the arms of the government have not welcomed it,” he said.

Guzha said as Rooftop Promotions they would be launching a theatre programme called Unclassified Cabinets that will invite actual ministers to, “come into the theatre and face the people”.

“We have already had confirmation from five ministers from all the parties in the inclusive government agreeing to participate. As a producer, you get worried when ministers agree and I had to ask them what the catch is. They said since elections are looming, it gives them a platform, but I leave that to the people to judge for themselves,” he said.