Exiled musician drops another protest album

HARARE - Hapson Handson Mabika, aka Dread Reckless, is producing a new protest album of satire titled Ndarota Uchitama.

Since Dread Reckless is exiled in Botswana, the album will be smuggled into Zimbabwe.

“This is political stuff but I have other non-political albums still in the studio,” he said.

In previous songs and verse, the controversial singer and poet, who penned the popular opposition song Saddam Waenda Sare Bob,  attacks the mismanagement of the country’s economy, human rights abuses and President Robert Mugabe’s regime manoeuvres to avoid relinquishing power.

His latest album typically is an expression of local grievances.

When the Mugabe regime banned traditional protest songs, one of its leading exponents chose a life of exile rather than fall silent.

Mabika is one of an estimated 100 000 Zimbabweans living in Botswana accused by the host nation of straining public services in a nation of 2,3 million people.

It has been eight years now since he left Zimbabwe yet not even the hands of time will make Mabika ever forget the chilly July day in 2008, when he skipped the country’s border, fleeing from the police.

“Life has been tough since I left Zimbabwe. Wherever you go looking for a job they want a workers’ permit.

“As for me to get the permit, it will be an impossible mission since I came here through an illegal entry point and I don’t have a passport,” he said in an interview with the Daily News on Sunday.

Botswana, the world’s largest producer of diamonds, shares 800km of border with Zimbabwe and has felt the full effects of its neighbour’s economic collapse under the weight of political violence and hyperinflation since 2000.

When he left Zimbabwe, Mabika claims that police were in hot pursuit, apparently hunting for the man who was singing subversive songs and also in the trade of selling knobkerries and other weapons of choice.

“We had a meeting with Itai Dzamara about our escape. My wife was home in Chivi. We escaped to Bulawayo where we camped for a month. We went on tour with Morgan Tsvangirai using the national youth assembly vehicle,” he said.

As fate would have it, his old pal Itai has been missing since last year and the two’s sad stories are both connected to the ruling party Zanu PF.

He knows that he is luckier than Dzamara because his relatives at least know that he is alive.

“We had a rally in Hwange but unfortunately we found the venue invaded by Zanu PF.

“We ran to the police station and found the police station closed. Then rumour started circulating that I was being tracked. We decided to stay in Victoria Falls for some days. That same night, our vehicle was impounded by the police. Newspaper reports claimed that I was using the MDC car to sell CDs, axes, bows and arrows,” said Mabika.

When he escaped, Mabika was in the company of another protest musician Protest Takaona, better known as Sister Fearless, and the two slipped under the noses of authorities to find sanctuary in the neighbouring country.

Mabika said that one of the things that he fears most is for the life of his identical twin brother who is still domiciled in the country.

“They once caught him in Zvishavane thinking it was me and stabbed him. He was left for dead,” he said.

So deep are his fears that Mabika is still worried about the safety of his family that he cannot disclose where they are staying.

“I miss my family members like hell, especially my brothers’ wives who treated us like their own sons since we are the last born children,” he said.

Cut from his family and friends, the 37-year-old, who grew up in Chivi and did his education at Madamombe Secondary School, had a stint in Triangle as a general worker and then did his ‘‘A’’ Level through correspondence.

Life for him has always been a struggle. He had to fight to be what he is today, and the battles have been anything but easy. Returning to Zimbabwe is a chilling prospect.

“The abduction and disappearance of Itai is a clear testimony that Zimbabwe under the current regime is not a safe country for live fish like me,” said Mabika.

Eight years in exile have done little to lessen his hatred for Mugabe; the man he believes is the author of not only his misfortune but the country’s ills too.

He remains confident that change can come. He strongly believes Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC will lead the transformation.

“There are some people who say my music spreads hate, but I don’t see it that way. My music is a counter to the hate messages from the ruling party through the government-controlled media. For example, when I sat down to come up with a song like Saddam Waenda Kwasara Bob, I was looking at the number of lives being lost to make him live. So I wished and prayed that we lose one life in him to save more lives. One life lost just for someone to save his selfish interest is too many,” said Mabika.

It is hard not to discern the hatred in his words but for him it is all justifiable because Zanu PF is a ruthless regime.

“I was inspired by (the late Zanla commander) Josiah Magama Tongogara.

“He was our neighbour and as a young boy, I used to go with my mother every Easter holiday with the Methodist Church crusade to donate some few coins to his wife. I wondered why Mugabe was not helping her.” he said.

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