Robert Mugabe


I’d like to think I’m writing this after seeing the best video category from this year’s South African Music Awards nomination’s list.But it was rather going through a friend’s external hard drive and coming across 2PAC’s How Do You Want It with the brothers K-Ci & JoJo.

It was the triple ‘X’ in the title of the video that got my attention. Bar the excitement my body couldn’t hide from seeing erotic scenes, I actually sat there pondering for what seemed like an eternity, on the paucity of X-rated versions of music videos.

I grew up in a time where tracks had two versions of the video, the dirty one and the clean version for prime time television. Artists still make clean versions of their songs for radio and will have the explicit joints on their albums. Dirty doesn’t only pertain to women gyrating their rears in front of the camera; it is what viewers deem offensive. Be it nudity, unpleasant language or the depiction of violence in a music video-and more.

Rapper Jay-Z found himself in some trouble for his 99 Problems video. Shot in Brooklyn, New York the video depicts life for niggers in the hood and the city. In the last scene, a defenceless Jigga is shot at multiple times on a sidewalk. It was viewed as something done in bad taste. So bad, that MTV would only broadcast the video with an introduction from Jay-Z explaining that it was a metaphorical death, not a real one.  I know right, my eyes rolled too.

Black Entertainment Television (BET) designated their late hours to these explicit music videos, in a programme called BET Uncut. Uncut aired from 2001 till 2006, playing mostly Hip Hop videos with gross sexual imagery that had many teenagers risk getting an ass-whipping just to watch their favourite artists, next to some of the finest booty you’ll ever see.

A slew of explicit Hip Hop videos aired in those five years but nothing was raunchier than Nelly’s Tip Drill which saw dudes in throwback jerseys, du-rags and Air Forces at a house party that probably had three naked women for each fella in the video. I remember first seeing the video on a friend’s computer while in high school, with a grin on my face marvelling at why we never have such house parties when we decide to bunk school.

BET Uncut came to an end after many complaints about the show being distasteful and constituting soft porn. Rightfully so, it was.

In South Africa, artists play it safe. If they create videos which are polarizing, it’s usually for their “strong” tone on politics or social issues.

Last year a complaint came to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission South Africa (BCCSA) about Kwesta’s Spirit music video. The viewer’s grievance was about the slaughtering of chicken in some of the scenes. The rapper was also accused of trying to score political points by burning the old South African flag in the video.

In 2014 The Zimbabwean government under Robert Mugabe’s rule, turned away South African band Freshly Ground as soon as they landed at the Harare International airport , with no reason as to why. But in 2010, the collective released Chicken to Change, mocking Mugabe’s stubborn grip to power since the country gained independence in 1980. Guess Uncle Bob couldn’t let them get away with what they did four years prior.

South Africa has banned more ads and artwork than it has music videos.

Music and videos that the average viewer might find offence, are not officially banned but ghosted. You wouldn’t find Die Antwoord’s videos on MTVBase, simply because a censored version would usurp the video of its punch.

The internet has given directors and artists the liberty in their video-making, to create without fear of being ostracized by mainstream media for their authenticity.

The creative freedom is refreshing,especially because for so long,men have dictated what images of women are shown. Now women can decide how they want to be seen, Beyoncé is a fine case in point.


Like Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt but never saw the promise land himself, so is the late Morgan Tsvangirai, who would’ve enjoyed casting his ballot together with millions of Zimbabweans in today’s historic election.

There was a time when the MDC leader was the only vocal critic of then president Robert Mugabe, when everyone else kept their silence in intimidation. Hearing current MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa’s bravado as he spoke after casting his vote, you get a clear picture of the stark difference between now and what took place a decade ago in that country when they had elections. “I represent the young and the new. My part is to play a positive role, in making sure that there’s peace in this country. Zimbabweans need peace, Zimbabweans need to build their nation. And I know that we’re winning this election…we have won this election, I’m here to confirm that we are ready to lead and ready to govern, we’re ready for a new Zimbabwe,” said Chamisa.

Nelson Chamisa

In the 2008 elections, Tsvangirai outpolled Mugabe by 48% to 43%. But Tsvangirai informed the electoral commission that he was withdrawing from the election after citing violence and the intimidation of MDC supporters. Threats of war, the participation of uniformed soldiers in Zanu-PF ­campaigns, the MDC’s lack of access to the state media, the banning and disruption of MDC meetings and rallies, the disenfranchisement of many voters, the barring of his party from rural areas and the electoral commission’s failure to ensure free and fair polls. Months later, the results came out that Zanu PF won the elections by 90%.

Tsvangirai said 86 people had been killed and 10 000 injured in the violence. About 10 000 homes had been destroyed, displacing 200 000 people.

Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Thabo Mbeki.

Today’s elections have a different feel to them. International observers have the liberty to carry out their duties without any intimidation, while local and international media is free to cover every process of the election without looking over their shoulder.

There’s novelty to these elections, as it’s the first time in more than 30 years that former president Mugabe won’t be running for presidency after being removed from power last November by the army.

The aging Mugabe addressed the media yesterday outside his house, where he vehemently said that he wouldn’t vote for his former party Zanu PF. All this because party leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, worked together with the army to remove Mugabe from the presidential seat.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa

The door of change is opened from inside. And millions of Zimbabweans will have their hands on the door knob of change, as they cast their ballot in the country’s elections today. As a South African, I truly hope this election brings needed change to the people of Zim, as Tsvangirai had always dreamt.



It was Nina Simmone that said it’s an artists’ duty to reflect the times they are in, through their music. But what happens when you try to play your part and the government censors your art or even threaten your life?

Zimbabwean artists know the pain of not being able to freely express themselves especially if speaking against the now former President Robert Mugabe.

Freedom of press and that of expression gradually deteriorated during Mugabe’s 37-year dictatorship. Everyone felt the government’s iron fist rule, and a lot could say they’ve been driven away from home but not everyone can say they’ve been driven farther than the 14 000 KM that Zimbabwean great Thomas Mapfumo has been. “This is a change that I personally embrace as a trigger to real change on the way. Removal of President Mugabe was the miracle of our lifetime,” says Mapfumo.

Speaking from the US where he has been exiled after the government’s accusations of him being involved with a stolen-car. Things got uncomfortable enough for him to relocate.

Unlike countryman and great Oliver Mutukudzi who wouldn’t release music that directly rebuked government wrongdoing, Mapfumo first pushed the government’s buttons in 1989 when he released an album titled Corruption, directed at the president and his government.

“President Mugabe often spoke badly against me and my music that he considered aggressive to his bad governance. He even arranged for my music to be banned from the national airwaves.”

The 72 year-old Mapfumo was jailed shortly before Zimbabwe gained independence in 1979, for his incisive lyrics as he encouraged people to rise and fight oppression and segregation. His fraught history with the government shows that his agenda isn’t personal attack on leaders, but one that stands against incompetent leadership.

“Through ambitious cabinet ministers like Jonathan Moyo who introduced arbitrary laws, free speech was stifled. Music was heavily censored as President Mugabe became a deity. All he wanted to hear was words that praised him and made him feel better. Any truthful statements attracted censure and prosecution. While this was the law, I refused to be silenced.”

It makes sense why on that historical Tuesday afternoon in November when the 93 year-old Mugabe relinquished his reign, throngs of cars on the streets of Harare were playing Mapfumo’s classic Chimurenga (struggle) music, although he hasn’t been in the country in more than a decade.

Luttan King, a Zimbabwean but South African based reggae and dancehall artist whose music’s foundation is the Rastafarian trio of love, peace and harmony, doesn’t make songs that would make corrupt leaders uncomfortable.

“Politics ain’t a thing I like. My family told me never to be a politician, if you want to be free, never sing anything that makes them hunt you.”

Not all artists will be inspired to write music that talks to social issues, regardless of genre, but Luttan King’s comment talks to the fear that the Mugabe regime ingrained on its citizens. Police and security forces camouflaged as civilians were some of the biggest threat to Zimbabwean’s freedom.

Xoliswa Sithole, a filmmaker and producer of award winning documentary Zimbabwe’s Forgotten Children experienced this first-hand as she and her team were shooting the doccie in 2010. A South African born but Zimbabwe bred Sithole knew very well going into the production of the doccie that all their moves would be scrutinized since

“Zimbabwe as a country was always very suspicious of journalists and cameras. One had to pray every morning and hope for the best, “says Sithole.

“At one point our equipment and money was stolen by someone posing to be a political ‘somebody’ trying to vet our legitimacy of filming in Zimbabwe.”

Despite the hurdles, they completed their project in eight months and were awarded with a Peabody Award as well as a BAFTA in 2011. Shot clandestine like, the doccie follows the lives of children trying to survive in the gruesome poverty and life of squalor in Zimbabwe.  Through their work in the documentary, Sithole and her team attracted donors who assisted in education, healthcare as well as food for the stars of the film.

“The documentary did highlight that plight and there was and has been a lot of help and activism around the children of Zimbabwe. Other initiatives are; 10 schools in Zimbabwe are being assisted by someone, food and the assistance of fees and building of schools is another project happening because of the documentary.”

Luttan King was in studio recording, while Sithole was overcome by emotions in SA and the one also known as “The Lion of Zimbabwe” was in Eugene, Oregon when the news came in that Mugabe had resigned. “I was relieved to hear that and was so excited to see the dictator being removed. The suffering of the people had reached the cusp. It was time for him to go. Regardless of what lies ahead, the good thing is that a long serving dictator is gone,” says Mapfumo.

It’s a silly thought to think of your favourite artist putting a 3:45 song together to sum-up a nation’s turmoil or that an hour long doccie will change the course of history. But frank and organic self-expression shouldn’t be muffled because it unsettles a privileged minority.

Like 2Pac said, he may never change the world himself but he’ll spark the minds that do so and that’s what Simone’s classic protest songs such as Mississippi Goddam and I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free did. They sparked minds that went to change the world.

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