Muzondo offers massage with a message

HARARE - The Daily News youth column will occasionally feature young people that are working towards bringing a positive change in their communities.

This week features Tafadzwa Muzondo, 33, a theatre practitioner who had his play No Voice No Choice recently banned in the country.

Below are excerpts of a wide ranging interview carried out by Margaret Chinowaita (MC) speaking to Tafadzwa Muzondo, (TM).

MC: What did you aim to achieve with the play, No Voice No Choice?

TM: Through this creative and interactive piece of art, I wanted to stimulate, strengthen and enhance open dialogue around issues of transitional justice at grass roots level; to establish a community that commits itself to shunning violence in whatever form, valuing the necessity and vitality of peace; to encourage an electorate that has confidence in their right to participate in the democratic governance of their country; and to have a youth that makes an individual resolve to desist from being used in political violence.

MC: Do you feel justified that the play should have gone ahead? Kindly give reasons of its benefit to the citizens of Zimbabwe?

TM: The play belongs to the Zimbabwean populace; it was inspired by the people and I dedicated it to them.
The ban was an infringement of their right to entertainment and information. Our people long for freedom of expression and choice hence the title “No Voice No Choice” which is about inspiring people to freely project their voices and make their choices.

Political violence is against the core objective of the liberation struggle which was to have one man one vote .The play is a healing, reconciliation and peace building initiative which has been welcomed in the areas we performed before the ban. It has to go ahead in other areas.

MC: Are you appealing against the ban?

TM: We have appealed against the ban in terms of the Entertainments Control Act and as we speak, the Appeal Board does not exist as it last sat in 2009. This leaves us wondering how the same act can have an effective Board of Censors without an active appeal board.

To me, this is a deliberate affront to freedom of expression and the development of the arts sector, theatre in particular, as our efforts to get our case heard are being frustrated deliberately.

MC: Your play was nominated for a Nama award. How do you feel about this given the ban?

TM: It shows the play is theatrically correct but politically incorrect to some people who still want to keep skeletons in their closets.

The play is about discouraging political violence as the Board of Censors even noted, so what is the basis of banning it if the leadership is also talking against violence?

The president has been speaking against violence, the prime minister as well and even the police commissioner — so what political climate is the Board of Censors talking about?

I feel betrayed by this ban and feel sorry for the ordinary peace-loving Zimbabwean who has been denied an opportunity to watch an entertaining play that is about discouraging political violence and advocating for peace.

MC: May you outline a brief background of your work as a community theatre practitioner?

TM: My greatest motivation as a community theatre practitioner is that before I am an artist, I am also a member of a community or society or a citizen of a country so I see myself as killing two birds with one stone — making an honest living out of my talent as I contribute to positive change and national development.

I am motivated by the wall hanger which was in our living room in Highfield which said: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

For me, political violence is something we can change, we don’t need to accept it, bad governance is something we can change and so is corruption, mismanagement and HIV-related illnesses and deaths, so there is no need to accept them because we can change them.

But there is one thing we cannot change — the fact that we are us, we are Zimbabweans and we cannot think or act alike on everything so we have to tolerate each other.

MC: May you comment on how you are received by the community?

TM: Our plays have always been well received as we offer a massage with a message to these communities.
That is why I find it funny that someone would say in the context of the prevailing political climate, it is not wise to release the play for public consumption when in fact we had already performed it in Harare, Nyika Growth Point, Jerera Growth Point, Charles Austin Theatre, Rujeko Shops, Nyanga, Nyazura, Miekles Park, Dangamvura and Sakubva without any incidents.

MC: What other challenges do you face in your work besides the authorities?

TM: Like every industry, establishing oneself without any form of start-up capital or funding is not easy but I told myself that as an artist I cannot just be creative but innovative as well and this has paid off. My approach has been making products and selling them instead of pitching scripts and waiting for funding to start rehearsals.

That is why EDZAI ISU stands for Entrepreneurial Development of Zimbabwean Arts Initiative for International Success Unlimited.

You might want to know that No Voice No Choice was not commissioned by anyone but came about as a collaborative effort between my EDZAI ISU Theatre Arts Project from Highfield and the Gibson Sarari-led Zvido Zvevanhu Arts Ensemble from Mufakose.

MC: What is the way forward for your group, do you feel you can go ahead producing more plays. What are you working on at the moment?

TM: Indeed we are going ahead undeterred, that is our chosen profession and we cannot be discouraged by one challenge. I am actually writing a play based on these challenges and the writing title so far is Thanks But No Thanks.

I also have two more plays that I have finished — Washington Junction and Right Of Admission Reserved 2.

MC: Can you comment on the lack of theatre audiences, what should be done to revive theatre audiences across Zimbabwe, to ignite the culture of going to the theatre?

TM: I think we are at a stage where theatre has been elitist and most audiences have been whites if not upper class — but we have seen that when theatre is taken to the people, like we have been doing with No Voice No Choice performing at shopping centres, the people have responded overwhelmingly. The trick is take it to the people more.

MC: What are your concluding words to Zimbabweans?

TM: We are sick and tired of being called donor mouth pieces when our activities are supported by donors and yet the government itself gets funding from all these donors, does that make them donor mouth pieces?

The government does not support the arts industry, theatre in particular, and when some donors support us, some sections start calling us names and for me that is not justified.

When a donor supports schools, sponsors the health sector, gives starving people food, drill boreholes, supports the constitution-making process, funds Parliament and so forth it’s all good, but when they support a theatre production, then someone wants to find that sinister, why? - Margaret Chinowaita, Community Affairs Editor

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.