Artwatch Africa has called on Zimbabwean authorities to drop charges against Arterial Network Chairperson and three others harassed over a new film “The Lord of Kush.”
Theatre in the Park, (TITP) a popular creative space in Harare operated by Arterial Network Chairperson Daves Guzha, was invaded on Saturday 27 July 2018, by Zimbabwean police officers. During the incident, the officers demanded that the screening of a new film “The Lord of Kush” be stopped.
TITP management however did not stop the screening as the officers failed to produce any valid paperwork authorsing such an act of undue censorship and interference with freedom of expression. The police then instructed the filmmaker Tendai Maduwa and TITP creative director Peter Churu to report to Central police station in Harare.
They were subsequently taken to the CID Law and Order where they were joined by Daves Guzha, TTIP director and Arterial Network chairperson as well as other artists and practitioners who came to show solidarity. Personal details of Tendai Maduwa, Peter Churu and Daves Guzha were taken after which they were instructed to report back at 08:00hrs on Sunday 28 July 2019 for interviews.
On Sunday 28 July 2019, after their interrogation at Harare Central CID Law and Order, the filmmakers Tendai Maduwa, Kudakwashe Bwititi and TITP managers Peter Churu, Daves Guzha were formally charged with “unlawful public exhibition of a film’’, an act which the authorities claimed contravened Section 9(1)(a) of the Zimbabwe’s Censorship and Entertainment Control Act, Chapter 10:04. The artists denied the charge. With the support of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, they were released yesterday and scheduled to appear in court on Monday 29 July 2019 at 9am.
About the Film
According to the synopsis, ‘Lord of Kush’ is a portrait of good intentions gone bad. Patrice, mother to Jerald Muchisoni, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Pakistan is a retired professor with time on her hands. In a somewhat overzealous and amateurish way, she antagonises the Islamic community around her by imposing Christianity on Muslim children. In the aftermath of her brash actions, Nontokozo, her only grandchild, is kidnapped, and thousands of school children are massacred by a shadowy rebel group. The massacre comes after another devastating attack in the east arena and, as things unfold, new imperatives emerge. At the centre of all the carnage is Rashid, the Lord of Kush, calculating and merciless. Inevitably, in the commotion that breaks out, serious questions around the things that can be done, arise.
According to TITP source, yesterday’s screening was a special showing for reviews as part of the film’s production and release cycle. The film is still a work-in-progress and not completed yet.
Artwatch Africa is disturbed by this police interference. The ‘Lord of Kush’ is a fictional work; it is not a documentary. Through these acts of undue censorship, intimidation and interference with its creative process, authorities in Zimbabwe are enforcing vague rules that amount to illegal restrictions on artistic freedom, the right to freedom of opinion, expression, free information and ideas as guaranteed by international law. Filmmakers’ artistic freedom is guaranteed under Article 15.3 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.
Freedom House 2019 Report ranked Zimbabwe’s status as improved from “Not Free” to “Partly Free” because the 2018 presidential election, though deeply flawed, granted a degree of legitimacy to the rule of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had taken power after the military forced his predecessor’s resignation in 2017. This case is a test of the country’s true status with regards to freedom of expression.