Africa Day: Artists Urged To Speak On Human Rights Issues

By Romio Takundwa

Magamba Network has urged artists to use their trade to address human rights issues in the country.

The award winning youth innovation hub also called on the government of Zimbabwe to abstain from deliberate stifling of dissent voices by artists.

In a joint statement with The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) and the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) to celebrate Africa day, Magamba Network noted that artists are afraid to speak against the state for fear of “retribution, abduction, and assault”.

Africa day is dedicated to commemorating and celebrating the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which was established on 25 May 1963, and transformed into the African Union (AU) in 2001.

This year’s theme is Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want.

However, the joint statement highlighted on a number of incidents where artistes were subjected to inhuman treatment by suspected state agents and security forces for merely criticizing government through their various forms of art over the last years.

“In January 2019, musician Obey Makamure’s (Tocky Vibes) pregnant wife and manager were assaulted by soldiers after the musician released a song that spoke out against state-sponsored torture. Similarly, in August 2019, comedian Samantha “Gonyeti” Kureya, whose skits and videos present satirical criticisms of the Government and its policies, was abducted, tortured and inhumanely treated. Again, in October 2019, ZimDancehall artist Platinum Prince was abducted and assaulted for releasing a song in which he criticized the President,” read the statement.

The above set of incidents have been noted to be against this year’s theme, which seeks to promote arts and culture as voices for the voiceless.

Apart from the attack on the arts industry, the statement also highlighted other forms of human rights that are being perpetrated by the government against its own citizens, depriving them of their civil and constitutional rights to their culture and heritage.

The recent forced displacement of the Shangaan people of Chilonga in Chiredzi and that of the Dinde in Hwange to pave way for foreign investments have also been noted to be in contrary with the celebration of African cultural norms and traditions.

“Not only is the arts industry under attack in Zimbabwe, but the Government has also launched an onslaught against the rights of citizens. The culture and heritage of citizens are systematically eroded in areas like Chilonga, and Dinde situated in Hwange where the State is set to displace thousands of people to benefit the elite.

“It is sad to note that whilst the African continent is celebrating culture and tradition as building blocks for economic development, authorities in Zimbabwe are working overtime to destroy sacred cultural burial sites and shrines to pave the way for businesses without remorse,” read the statement.

To this end the government of Zimbabwe has been urged  to invest in Arts, Culture and Heritage to empower citizens and ensure that human rights are protected, promoted, and respected.