Zimbabwe: Concert blocked in Norton

14 February 2008

The ‘Rock de Vote’ concert in Norton on 2 February 2008 was delayed by more than four hours after a senior council board member who is a known Zanu PF had called it off the last minute. But the organisers defied the order and went ahead.

By Sebastian Nyamhangambiri, reporting for Freemuse from Norton

Musicians in Zimbabwe trying to pass the message of democracy are finding it difficult to do their duty because of the interference state security and of late politicians from the ruling Zanu PF as the recent event in Norton shows. Young musicians who had grouped in Norton – a Harare dormitory town about 40 kilometres south-west of Zimbabwe’s capital city – on the first Saturday of February had to defy the orders of the chairman of Norton Town Council (NTC), a well known Zanu PF senior member who had called off the concert.

The concert dubbed “Rock De Vote” initially set to start at mid-day at Ngoni Stadium only kicked off about four hours later. A visibly irritated Okay Machisa, the manager of the concert, shuttled between the police and the NTC in an effort to make sure that more than 7,000 fans who had come were not disappointed.

‘Smelt a rat’
”The problem started yesterday (on Friday) when police said the NTC had indicated that it had reservations with the show going ahead,” said Machisa on the day of the concert. “The police cleared the concert and the NTC accepted our payment for hiring the stadium but now they want to back-track. We know what is happening… They have received instructions from senior politicians in the ruling party to cancel the concert.”

Machisa said the day before the concert he was informed by the police that the NTC had said that the venue had been booked for another event so the ‘Rock de Vote’ concert would have to be cancelled or postponed to another day.

”Police officials told me to liase with the NTC as they smelt a rat but I could not do that since I did not want to give credibility to a likelihood of the concert being cancelled last minute,“ said Machisa. Some moments later, recorded music started playing in the stadium.

The senior NTC board member came and had a brief meeting with Machisa. He refused to talk to journalists as he drove away in his posh car.

”He said that a concert of this nature must not take place here. He said he is going to consult further and then he will come back to us. But whatever, he will come back and say the show can go ahead. We were cleared by the police,” said Machisa.

Started without permission
Despite the confusion, fans remained resolute, and so were the musicians. An hour or so after the NTC official had left, the ‘Rock de Vote’ rolled into life. And the fans enjoyed what they had waited for.

Musicians that performed at the Norton show included Ngoni Kambarami, Sam Mtukudzi, Extra Large, Rocky, Snipper, Nox, Sandra Ndebele and SQ.

After the concert, Machisa said: “The NTC official did not come back so we had to go ahead. But even if he had returned we were going to rock the vote in Norton.”

Last December, members of the Central Intelligence Office (the President Robert Mugabe’s spy agency) tried in vain to block another ‘Rock de Vote’ concert in Chiredzi about 400 kilometres south east of Norton.

Norton near a Zanu PF stronghold
One of the musicians interviewed after the show said he would continue to sing for a ‘good cause.’
”It was expected to experience such huddles given that Norton is just some few kilometres from Mugabe’s rural residence that is a Zanu PF stronghold. Such areas have leaders who are not tolerant of other views. But we can’t be stopped on this good cause. Given another chance I will jump on it again without even giving it a second thought,” said the singer.

‘Rock de Vote’ concerts are being organised by young musicians and a pro-democracy civic organisation, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, to educate citizens on their rights as regards voting. The concerts have been held in places like Harare, Bulawayo, Chiredzi and Mutoko.

Zimbabweans go to polls on 29 March 2008 in an election where President Mugabe locks horns with his former finance minister and erstwhile confidante Simba Makoni, and Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change president.

Photo by the author


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