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Zimbabwe

Attack on artistes an insult on democracy

EDITORIAL COMMENT

THE recent attack on local comedienne Samantha “Gonyeti” Kureya by suspected State security agents, who accused her of disrespecting the government through her satirical and comedy skits themed around politics and the hardships visited upon ordinary people by government’s “austerity for prosperity” measures, is regrettable.

This, however, comes as no surprise, given the unflattering human rights record of the new government against which whatever former President Robert Mugabe did pales into insignificance given that Gonyeti’s skits just mirrored citizens’ daily experiences.

The development has brought back into the limelight debate around freedom of expression in the country, especially as it pertains to artistes and other players in the creative sector, with people from different walks of life condemning the brutal, unnecessary and senseless attack. We join all the progressive forces in condemning these attempts to muzzle freedom of expression in a country that purports to be a citadel of democracy.

Whoever ordered that attack has only helped to further strengthen fears by the international community that they may have taken the wrong turn in giving Mnangagwa a chance after sweeping to power through a coup in November 2017, when international law insists that there be no recognition of leaders who seize power through the barrel of the gun.

If no government agency had a hand in the attack, this must be proved by a swift probe and arrest of the culprits. The culture of attacking artistes who use their work to communicate the lived realities of ordinary Zimbabweans should stop forthwith.

This development seems to communicate the message that free speech in the creative sectors will not be tolerated, and will only serve to portray the government as intolerant and dictatorial. Since 2017, we have slowly been drifting away from civilisation, with the national leaders slowly revealing their true colours, quite contrary to the sweet promises they made soon after seizing power. We thought we had seen the last of Mugabe, but it appears his ghost continues to haunt this land as the new leaders perfect the brutal system that he set up.

Players in the creative and other sectors have been expecting more tolerance and free speech, tenets that help entrench the spirit and practice of democracy and tolerance, which are hallmarks of modern politics.

The Gonyeti case is a stark reminder of the dark past, where artistes were heavily censured and intimidated for speaking out on issues affecting society.

There is no reason why State institutions should clamp down on creatives whose only “crime” is to speak their minds in what we believe to be a free Zimbabwe.

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Such rogue behaviour towards artistes or even political opponents is not going to address the pressing political and socio-economic problems afflicting the country.

It simply proves to the citizens and the world that this government is not what it claims to be. Artistes are like a mirror to society, so attacking them is akin to smashing a mirror when it reflects your true looks.

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