Media freedom advocacy group, Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa Zimbabwe), in collaboration with Kwekwe-based arts group Chipo Ndechangu Arts Academy, premiered a play to call for freedom of the media recently.
The play attended by over 100 people from the high-density suburb of Mbizo is premised on the demand by people for the government to open up the airwaves, while extolling politicians particularly in the rural areas, not to stifle access to information.
Titled The One in Charge, the play opens in a rural setting where a chief, played by Emmanuel Sibanda, is telling villagers the information minister will be addressing them the following day.
Villagers express concern that they have only seen top government officials towards elections. They also argue that lack of information in their area has kept them in the dark about current affairs.
When the minister comes, he basically attacks private media as regime-change instruments meant to cause disharmony in the county.
Calls on villagers are to stop listening to so-called pirate radio stations and stick to the state media.
In a rare show of defiance, villagers tell the minister they will not stop in their quest to fight for access to information and demand the government to allow for the setting up of community radio stations.
Although the chief tries to shield the minister from the unsophisticated villagers, they will have none of it in a 30-minute, fun-filled, comical play.
Media lawyer Prayers Chitsa said the media needed to continue to lobby for the recognition of media freedom as a right which is recognised in the African and United Nations charters.
He called on the Zimbabwe Media Commission to pave way to self regulation of the media while at the same time removing all restrictive legislative measures such as licensing of media houses and journalists.
A councillor, Weston Masiya, commended the play which in the next months will be taken to rural areas, saying it brought the reality faced by many Zimbabweans to the fore and afforded people an opportunity to discuss them openly.
“This is just a wonderful piece of art which allows Zimbabweans to laugh at their problems while at the same time discussing them in such an open atmosphere without any political connotations being drawn,” said Masiya.