|Two Zimbabwean musicians face charges of singing songs that are ‘sensitive and insulting’. Their lawyers and producers say the country is not yet safe for the duo to return to enter a fair trial.
By Sebastian Nyamhangambiri — reporting for Freemuse from Harare
Happison Mabika, 33, and Patience Takaona, 29, have been in hiding since last year when they failed to attend a court to answer charges of singing songs ‘too sensitive and insulting’ President Robert Mugabe. Their lawyer Charles Kwaramba later told Freemuse that the duo were fearing for their lives.
It is now more than a year after that, and Zimbabwe has now a coalition government but the two musicians – ‘Dread Reckless’, and ‘Sister Fearless’ as they are better known by their fans — have not emerged.
Fear for their lives
“I would want them back and they too want to come back so that they continue their singing career. We need them now than before, I can say. But they cannot risk because they can be re-arrested and exposed to dehumanising treating – as was the case when they were arrested last year.”
Last year they were released on bail after spending five days in jail for allegedly singing songs ‘too sensitive and insulting Mugabe’. In Zimbabwe, the crime attracts a two-year jail term if convicted.
‘Not yet safe’
“The warrant of arrest can be cancelled, but only if they come to court,” says Kwaramba. “But I would not advise them to come in public — it is not yet safe to do so in Zimbabwe despite the formation of the coalition government. Politicians are still being arrested and many people are still disappearing — what more of musicians? They can disappear too.”
Kwaramba said he has not talked to ‘Dread Reckless’ and ‘Sister Fearless’ but added that their relatives had told him that they had fled the country. He and Khumalo refused to confirm rumours that they are in Botswana. “The situation in Zimbabwe is still very far from being normal to be able to respect human rights. What can stop singers from being arrested and exposed to bad treatment?,” asks Kwaramba.
Persecution of artists
Photos and audio by the author
Zimbabwe: Duo charged of insulting the president: one year in hiding
10 June 2009