Zimbabwean Censorship Board absent from censorship discussion

22 September 2004
An Arts & Censorship Discussion on 9 September in Harare discussed the possible impact of recent Censorship Board actions.

Report from Maxwell Sibanda.


Government representatives from the Censorship Board failed to turn up for a crucial discussion on censorship of artistic work which was held on 9 September in Harare.

Davies Guzha, a renowned theatre producer and actor said they were dismayed that government officials could not turn up for the discussion. He said: “There were central to the discussion at hand and we had hoped that they would come and shed light on a number of issues affecting artists in regard to censorship. The attendance was so impressive, but the agenda failed to live up to expectation as the officials snubbed the gathering.”

The discussion follows on the heels of several reports of government censorship on artistic works, most notably music and theatre. Guzha said: “Artists in Zimbabwe do not know what the censorship board looks at when accessing productions, so this was an opportunity for them to know. We need workshops on censorship so that we know our parameters.”

Several songs by musicians Thomas Mapfumo, Leonard Zhakata, Chirikure Chirikure, Majongwe and several others have been “black listed” by the state broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings. Government enjoys monopoly in the electronic media.

Just recently, the Censorship Board banned a political play Super Patriots and Morons that condemns misrule and the abuse of human rights by an unnamed political leader. In rejecting the play the censorship board said: “It is hereby notified that the cinematography, advertisement or public entertainment described has been rejected by the Censorship Board.”

The play was produced by Guzha. He says: “It is more than two weeks now since we appealed to the censorship board and they have not come back to us, which is against their own constitution. They are just silent because we wanted them to fully explain their decision to ban the play.”

The play can now only be performed outside Zimbabwe. Last month the play was staged in Johannesburg, South Africa at the Market Theatre and will soon embark on a regional tour of Zambia, Namibia and Botswana after which it will tour Sweden and Norway.

Shepherd Mutamba, spokesperson for Rooftop Promotions the company promoting the play said the ban had deprived Zimbabweans of a fundamental right to choose arts products of their choice.

He said: “The ban sought to rob our artists of a voice and the freedom of speech. But art has many voices and many faces. It would be foolhardy for any government to think it can ban the work of art.

“The Zimbabwe government cited provisions of the draconian and colonial Censorship and Entertainment Control Act (1967) as the basis for the ban. Yet Super Patriots and Morons premiered in Harare last year without the government raising alarm. Arts critics viewed the ban as a way of silencing what is deemed as ‘inflammatory speech’ ahead of the general elections next year.

Introductory presentation
Discussion: Arts & Censorship Discussion

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