TODAY, the nation goes to polls and it will be the first time Zimbabwe holds an election without former President Robert Mugabe on the ballot paper to represent the ruling Zanu PF party.
BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
Artistes across all genres have castigated the ruling party for the rot it has caused in the past 38 years and for failing to turn the creative sector into a viable industry.
This election, considered as historic for the nation, will be remembered for attracting a record number of 23 presidential candidates since independence, with one of the candidates being African roots musician and sculptor Bryn Taurai Mteki, popularly known as Sekurutau.
Besides Mugabe, another celebrated political figure, Morgan Tsvangirai, who no doubt had become Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader, will also be missing on the ballot paper after he succumbed to cancer of the colon at the age of 65 on Valentine’s Day this year.
For long, artistes have been calling for a working environment where they can express themselves freely without intimidation from the government, which has often forced them into self-censorship, thus limiting their creativity.
On several occasions, artistes have blamed Mugabe’s government for victimising them over works of arts.
Artistes have often argued that pieces of legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Broadcasting Services Act, Copyright Act, National Arts Council Act, Piracy Act and Freedom of Expression Act must be scrapped, claiming they were enacted to oppress them.
They claim these pieces of legislation have stifled their creative muses and crippled the arts industry.
As a result, several productions were banned and musicians such as Leonard Zhakata had, at some point, their music taken off air.
In an interview with NewsDay Life & Style yesterday, artistes expressed mixed feelings over today’s elections, which they expect to lead to transformation of the archaic and draconian pieces of legislation that have clipped their creative prowess for decades.
Renowned film producer Kaseke said the new government will have to engage the creative talent of the country to brand and sell the country’s heritage and culture both locally and overseas.
“If Nelson Chamisa wins the presidential race, I see MDC Alliance creating a vibrant creative enterprise, something that has not been a major priority for Zanu PF over the years,” he said.
“If it’s Emmerson Mnangagwa who wins, I strongly feel his admin needs to step up and realise the power that the creative arts has.”
German-based Zimbabwean arts promoter Mhako said this election presents the biggest opportunity for real change in Zimbabwe’s many sectors.
“As a creative artiste, an MDC Alliance win is a new positive beginning, a window for the creative sector to get revived and thrive again.
“It’s an opportunity for the thousands of Zimbabwean artistes scattered across the world and doing amazing things in those countries to come back home and build their country, because they never felt supported or appreciated through the absence of an enabling environment,” he said.
“A Zanu PF presidential win for me speaks of perpetuation of the current trajectory. A system of tokenism,
trivialisation of the arts, patronage and soon, the curtailing of artistic freedoms once they get a new mandate.”
Mhako said artistes had a lot to offer for the growth of the country’s gross domestic product.
“We are creative refugees here in the Diaspora, but the great thing is we have learnt a lot that can help Zimbabwean arts grow and thrive. I think under a totally new and young government, our voices will be heard, skills and talents appreciated and supported,” he said.
Theatre artist and political activist, Mudzvova said through this election, it is high time the arts sector has a minister, who has an arts background, who can revamp the National Arts Council and gallery acts, so that they become self-sustaining.
“If the opposition, mainly the MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa, wins this election, we are expecting that at least they reckon that arts can actually play a role in the economics of the country rather than what Zanu PF does, taking arts as a social thing or an entertainment thing during rallies, burials and galas,” he said.
“If Zanu PF wins, I don’t see any change because they don’t believe in the arts. We will try as much as we can to push them to say we have been quiet for a long period of time, and definitely now, it is high time to push them for the change of policies and even the alignment of the laws to make sure they are actually in line with the Constitution.”
Mudzvova said he was expecting, for the first time, to have a minister from the opposition (MDC Alliance), who will be very proactive in the arts industry.
“Arts must be regarded as an economic part of nation-building in the same way they [authorities] talk of the manufacturing sector, not leaving arts, which is also fundamental in economics. Look at bigger economies like America, how much they value arts and what their contribution is towards their GDP. Look at India and Nigeria, how their film industry is actually contributing towards their GDP,” he said.
Trailblazing local comedian and satirist, Comrade Fatso said there was need of fresh ways of thinking in this election that could help support a vibrant arts sector that can lead to a thriving creative economy with true open freedom of expression.
“As a creative artist, I believe we need a change for new ideas in government from the Zanu PF regime. For the last 38 years, we have not been allowed true freedom of expression. That has really stifled the arts sector and the creative scene,” he said.
United States-based Chimurenga legend Mapfumo said that Zimbabweans should maintain the peaceful environment during and after election day.
“Elections are here in Zimbabwe. Let’s all remain peaceful and let the elections reflect unity, progress and responsibility,” Mapfumo said.
“Do not hurt each other during elections. Just vote for your candidate and go home. Do not worry about your neighbour’s choice.”