Protest artistes troop home after Mugabe's fall

HARARE - Former president Robert Mugabe's demise has opened doors to several self-exiled protest artistes who now feel free to come back home.

Chimurenga music icon Thomas “Mukanya” Mapfumo is one of the more vocal singers who will return to Zimbabwe after 14 years with a performance at the Glamis Stadium on April 28.

Mapfumo left the country in 2004 for the United States of America (US) after releasing a series of protest songs denouncing Mugabe and his government’s corrupt practices and misrule.

Before he finally packed his bags heading for US, Mukanya had been interrogated by the Zimbabwe Republic Police on allegations of buying stolen vehicles.

The musician has denied the charge and instead accuses the police of seizing his posh cars; he is still demanding his cars back.

Five months after Mugabe’s ouster, Mukanya is returning home a free man.

“I am feeling great because it has been a long time since I have been to Zimbabwe. I have been missing a lot of my friends, my fans and you know this feeling when you are home.

“For the past 14 years I have been performing in different countries but the feeling is different when you are performing in Zimbabwe,” the singer told the Daily News on Sunday in a recent interview, adding that his playlist will include his old hits.

“We don’t forget the old music that made us what we are today. We have new music that we are intending to play but the majority of songs on our playlist are those songs that made us who we are today. So if our fans request some songs we will play them.”

Though he is now in his 70s, Mukanya insists he has not lost any of his fabled stage presence.

“I am still very much in the game and my fans should expect a memorable show. As usual my fans know what I do. I recently won the Global First Artist Award 2018, it has just arrived today,” he said.

Another band that is now basking in the glory of Mugabe’s downfall is Freshlyground, which was blocked from performing at the Harare International Festival of Arts (Hifa) in 2014.

The group believed that their failure to enter Zimbabwe was as a result of their Chicken to Change song which mocked Mugabe.

In 2010, Freshlyground also did a controversial Mugabe puppet video from the same song.

This time Hifa organisers said everything was in order for the group to perform, also pinning their hopes on the “new dispensation”.

Their 2014 show had been sold out and it is yet to be seen if they will fill up their show venue this time.

Freshlyground is a South African Afro-fusion band that was formed in Cape Town in 2002.

The band members have different backgrounds, including South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

In an interview just after their deportation, the group said Zimbabwe was a long way from accepting that satire was a component of a robust democracy since it looked like Mugabe was “still upset” with their song Chicken to Change.

“The fact that at the time we wrote the song, the country was starting to believe that change was both desirable and possible. The only thing standing in the way of this desire was Mugabe and his stubborn hold on power and an almost 30-year reign. Change is inevitable, even in the game of politics and power.”

However, what remains to be seen is whether the relationship between the government and these artistes will continue if they start criticising the current government.
The same happened after the downfall of Ian Smith when artistes who could not perform here flocked to Zimbabwe.

On the other hand, film maker Rufaro Kaseke known for the home-made videos he posted on social media attacking Zanu PF during the reign of Mugabe is also back in Zimbabwe.

He once operated from US, just like Mukanya only to return to the southern country after the former president’s ouster.

Kaseke recently confirmed to this publication that he was keen to represent Chitungwiza North constituency as its legislator in the forthcoming harmonised elections.

“It’s very true. I will stand as an independent candidate for Chitungwiza North constituency. I was motivated by the need to bring fresh thinking into public administration space,” Kaseke said recently.

South African socialite and panty-less dancer Zodwa Wabantu could not perform in the country last year claiming she feared Mugabe after government barred her from gracing the Harare International Carnival.

After Mugabe’s resignation, she was cleared for shows locally although she failed to come owing to her own reasons.

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