Zimbabwe: Duo charged of insulting the president: one year in hiding

10 June 2009
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
“They are still in fear for their lives. They fear the worst can happen to them. We are in touch and we agreed that they stay where they are hiding while we assess the situation. So far there is no reason to be back — there is still no rule of law in Zimbabwe. People still live in fear,” says Marvelous Khumalo, who markets their music.

“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’
After failing to come to court, a warrant of arrest was issued against them by the magistrate court in Harare. Their lawyer says he is not concerned about the warrant of arrest for the musicians.

“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
Zimbabwe is generally an unsafe place for protest artists. They are either assaulted, arrested, threatened to succumb by going into exile or stopping to sing. Thomas Mapfumo is now based in the United States after he sang several songs condemning the status quo. He sang ‘Corruption in the Society’ and ‘Mabvebve’ [‘The country is now like torn pieces of cloth’].
Raymond Majongwe, a protest musician, last year said he had to record his album in neighbouring South Africa in after recording companies in Zimbabwe refused fearing reprisals from the regime.

Photos and audio by the author




Lawyer Charles Kwaramba

The duo: Makipa and Takaona – with the artist names: ‘Dread Reckless’ and ‘Sister Fearless’

Dread Reckless and Sister Fearless’ album:: ‘Tiriparwendo naMorgan’

Producer Marvelous Khumalo



Interview with Marvelous Khumalo


Transciption of the mp3 audio file

What are the whereabouts of Sister Fearless and Dread Reckless?

Khumalo: They are still in a certain place. They are hidden in a certain place in fear of their lives because — you will agree with me that — the political developments in the country are not yet secure for them to return to their base.

But are you still in touch them — and what are their concerns?

Yes, we are still very much in touch with them. As musicians, as e social commentators of the situation in the country they need to be with us here so that they continue on their projects, the songs for freedom and protest music. So by being hidden there it has an influence or a bearing in terms of their career.

Do you think that the situation in Zimbabwe is now ripe or steady so that for their protest music can start being played on tv or radio?

We thought as much that it (time) be viewed as being ripe now. But the real developments on the ground show otherwise that it is not ripe for them to be here and start continuing with their careers.

What has been the response of the audience to their music and protest music in general?

The response is overwhelming, and was from the first album. I did the marketing of their first album and there was my phone number on the album sleeve. I received a lot of acknowledgments from the audience. But now they — the audience or the listeners — are worried because they have not received anything new from the duo. So I thought as much that we need them here so that they continue with their career.


  Click to listen to mp3 audio

Click to listen to interview with Marvelous Khumalo, the ‘producer’ for Reckless and Fearless.
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