THE arrest of comedian Samantha Kureya, popularly known as Gonyeti on Tuesday morning, has revived calls for the government to respect artistes and not stifle their creativity, as humour and satire are essential to any democratic country.
A member of Bustop TV, Gonyeti was picked at her Mufakose home and taken to the Criminal Law and Order Section at Harare Central Police Station, where she was later discharged after paying $20 fine for criminal nuisance.
The charge was derived from a skit that depicted police brutality, titled #charitycharambachallenge, in which she appears to be donning a police uniform.
Local artistes, of course, feel that “colonial pieces” of legislation such as the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act curtail their creativity and has been used to ban productions seen as critical to the authorities, not dissimilar to how the Ian Smith regime used the same laws to stifle freedom of expression in the country.
In a free and democratic country, the government is supposed to protect artistes; not intimidating and censoring them for speaking out or using political satire to address a national issue.
The banning of productions seen as critical of the ruling elite was seen as a relic of the Robert Mugabe era, one which even the government itself has admitted as not belonging to modern society. It boggles the mind then when State institutions are clamping hard on productions that are mostly for comic relief and a window into the daily lives of the people they are supposed to serve.
The arrest of Gonyeti certainly sends fears across the creative sector and gags free speech, but ironically at a time when the State is preaching tolerance and inclusivity as part of a charm offensive to be accepted back into the international community.
It is noble that Bustop TV co-founder and producer, Lucky Aaroni said they would not bow to pressure to contain their creativity; but we think the police are out of line with their heavy-handedness.
While open speech is guaranteed under the country’s Constitution, the freedom after speaking is apparently not, and artists will now feel they are not always free to use their creative minds, especially when they question the ruling elite.
Zimbabwe is a democracy, a functioning democracy and artistic creativity ought to be encouraged and not stifled as its leading lights are harassed. If any member of the State security organs cannot stand for humour or mild criticism, then maybe public life is not for them.