8 February 2016

Zimbabwe: Demolishing Democracy - a Play By Muzondo

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Kundai Marunya was at the theatre recently. He gives his views on a play in which art imitates life.

Last week I was at the Zimbabwe Hall in Highfields, where I watched Demolishing Democracy, a play by Tafadzwa Muzondo. The cast was made up of Everson Ndlovu, Gibsin Sarari, Samantha Ndlovu, Charlotte Munyayi, Brezhnev Guveya, Charles Biniweri and Tafadzwa Muzondo (who is also the writer and director). The theatre production was facilitated by Culture Fund Zimbabwe with the support of SIDA and DANIDA.

It was a day well spent.

But as I left the venue, I was left with questions hanging in my head:

Why does democracy demolish its people's lives? When is the right time to demolish that democracy?

It is a timely show that stirs not only emotions of the many displaced 'illegal settlers', but also debate on what our laws should stand for; the people or purported future plans for the rich and our government? I was left with more questions than answers, among them, what do we do when our law and the government dehumanises its people?

The play

Demolishing Democracy is a heart-breaking tale of ordinary people who are displaced from their homes, their belongings destroyed, only to be left impoverished and vulnerable. First under Operation Murambatsvina and the countless demolitions that followed. In their jeopardy, women suffer miscarriages, children die of cholera and malnutrition, all left with no hope for life.

Yes they fight the police, (who come dressed in shorts, boots and caps, a loose replica of the Rhodesian Police) but their protests fall on deaf ears, a reminder of the current woes in Harare, most recently in Arlington. Irony is well placed as protesters remix Comrade Chinx Chingaira's hit song Chikopokopo. Comrade Chinx of course is the former freedom fighter and musician whose home was demolished in 2005 during Murambatsvina.

Party interests

Several issues are discussed including how councillors, elected by the people,take their positions as jobs instead of duty. They fail to represent the will of their constituents but the interests of their respective political parties, misguided as they maybe, just to safeguard their political aspirations.

Human rights issues are well articulated. From the rights stipulated in our constitution to the greedy advocacy groups that, instead of joining in protest, issue press statements from the luxury of their offices or from exclusive golf courses. They hold 'public discussions' to justify their huge donor funded budgets, but in hotels, away from the people.

What justice?

Just as the judiciary seem to be playing games in the way they conduct business, a court session is mimicked on a pool table. A visibly drunk judge presides. He smokes mbanje while counsel take turns in massaging his ego during proceedings. The people seemed to be wining an Urgent Court Applications to stop demolitions, but a word from the government changes a possible victory. Though one of the most hilarious scenes in the play, it made me ponder why, back in the real world demolitions in Arlington, the urgent application to stop the demolitions was dismissed.

I already do not trust the judiciary system. I strongly believe that what prevails in human rights cases is what the ruling party leadership wants to prevail. I don't see why stopping opposition leader Tsvangirai from wedding Elizabeth Macheka could be considered 'urgent' when stopping demolitions was not important for the same court.

The audience debate

A heated discussion followed after the play. Having mixed audience of students, community leaders, residents and NGOs gave me different views on the demolitions. Most people pay a lot of money through housing cooperatives that seem authentic. They even have approval papers signed by senior council officials. But like in Arlington, the government does not care about the law, let alone the plight of their citizens.

One person in the discussion summed it up well when he said 'the law is what they say it is.' Remember when earlier this year traffic fines were hiked without a supporting act of parliament? Or when we are forced to pay television and radio licenses for services that many of us do not even use?

Incompetence

Where is our government and the responsible local authority when the 'forbidden land' is developed? Why not stop these supposedly illegal settlements at the early stage to save people money? For how long shall we suffer for their incompetency? Where is the master plan on development they always talk about so that we do not go on buying stands on the forbidden land even when developers come with approvals?

Then there is the selective application of law that dislocates poor residents from wetlands while the moneyed guys construct even bigger structures. I still don't get how the Chinese built Longchen Plaza and the Borrowdale Mall still stand on even bigger wetlands destroying our ecosystem. Several petitions were signed but still nothing is being done.

Time to wake up

Demolitions of 'illegal structures' in Harare have always been a subject that touches me greatly, but I question the senses of someone who buys a stand (500 square metres) for a mere $50 dollars. The same piece of land costs $8,000 in a similar geographic location, when not acquired through politicians. How can one really expect to pay the price difference with slogans and dances at political rallies and expect to get away with it? These are the same politicians who have lied to us for decades, most recently promising to create millions of jobs through ZimAsset.

How can one actually go on to build houses on that land with faith that the politicians can protect them when bulldozers come? They could not even protect their fellow cadre, Cde Chinx. Let's learn from the past empty promises and avoid heart-break.

Democracy crushed underfoot

I have one more question for you Zimbabwe; when are you going to finally say enough is enough and stand up to injustice. You may not have had your house demolished but your democracy has been trampled on in a thousand ways. And who knows, tomorrow you may wake up homeless after some old dictator decides you are an eyesore to his visitors, your houses needs to be destroyed.

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