Tuesday 15 November 2011

He-e Tazvida Wezhira irombe

The Growth Point Music maker who made it big and broke into the hearts of the urban dweller

There are, mostly probably, two known Zimbabwean musicians who made a name from ridiculing themselves and their humorous approach to social issues.
There was Kenneth Chigodora of Sisi Dori fame and then System Tazvida. Both are late.
Although I met Chigodora in his last days and tried to prop him back into the business, I never met System but I met his brother Peter and Isaac. I have also met Lee Roy Kamusena Lunga who had a long-drawn battle for control of the band after Peter’s death in 2002.
I met Peter when they launched their album Rimi Remoto at the National Sports Stadium where the late Tsitsi Mawarire and Eric Knight were Emcees in 1999 after System’s death.
I spent a weekend with Isaac in Shamva when he performed at a bar there and he visited me on several occasions.
Like I said, System made his name by being himself. He tapped into his rural background and made music for his type of people. And that music was later embraced by those who saw themselves as being living outside System’s world.
By making music for the previously uncatered for, System created a very active market. Calling himself Rombe, System managed to break through urban barriers.
His first hit Mabhauwa where he was backed by the Khiama Boys that had Alick Macheso in the line-up was received by all. Also in the line-up were Tineyi Chikupo, Cephas Karushanga, Nicholas Zakaria, Ephraim Joe and Sailas Chakanyuka.
The song, Mabhauwa was written by Cephas Karushanga and given to System to sing. Later Karushanga and System left Khiama Boys to form Mabhauwa Express hoping to cash on the success of the song. But System did not last long with Karushanga when he left to join the Sungura Boys before setting up his band, Chazezesa Challengers in 1993, with the help of Peter who was playing with Nyami Nyami Sounds; Lunga from the Super Sounds and Kasongo Band; Lucky Mumiriki of Hurungwe Sounds and the Sungura Boys.
With Chazezesa Challengers, System who was born Fanuel Nyasha Tazvida in 1968 in Zaka became the voice of the voiceless while his mates nicknamed him System the microphone wizard.
The group’s debut seven single Vaforomani spoke about bad leadership and what power does to people. Accompanied with a humorous video, the song peaked high on the charts thereby launching System’s career.
System had a very humble beginning in the music industry when one day he chanced upon the Spiders during their show. They asked him if he could sing and he told that he was a reggae artist. They then gave him a chance to sing and he did much to delight of the fans. That launched his career which saw him churning one album per year.
All his albums had songs which taught but without rebuking. Rudo, Tsika Nemagariro (93); Rwendo Rweupenyu (94); Mutunhu Une Mago (95); Wadenha Mago (96); Wazosvorwa (97); and Huni Nyoro Mumoto (98) spoke about life.
Although most people tried to distance themselves from System’s music, they hopped back because he offered them another window through which they looked and laughed at themselves.
In the history of Zimbabwean music, System is also one of those who were organised. His band members were well catered for and he kept a happy intact group throughout his career.
But problems came when he died and then Peter too died leaving Isaac to take over.
Although Isaac was not a band member, he muscled his way in. I covered the row between Isaac and Lee Roy over the leadership of the band. In the end, Lee Roy had to leave and form his own group, Boyz DzeSena while Isaac struggled with Chazezesa.
One day I ran into him in Shamva when he was playing alongside Hosiah Chipanga at Shamva Bar. Although Isaac says that he helped System to put the band together and funded his brother, he does not have music in his veins.
Maybe he is unfortunate that his brothers who preceded him set a high standard which he can’t beat. Apart from delivery, Isaac has problems in management. At one time, I wrote about him losing instruments to a record company after failing to pay.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Maraire Trilogy - Chiwoniso

Chiwoniso Maraire died in Harare on 24 July 2013. She was 37. She died of lung infection. REST IN PEACE. For more on how Chiwoniso rose to stardom, you can check out on this blog The Band that made Chiwoniso Maraire as well as her father and mother's stories The Maraire Triology on this blog. - Wonder

I came face to face with Chiwoniso Maraire when she came to complain about a report we had carried in 2006. It was around 10 in the morning. I had attended a launch of her album in Greystone Park a few months earlier. And had attended another launch a few years back at the Alliance Francaise when she performed with her father a year before his death. This was long after a performance at the Harpers, Oasis Motel when she used to back Andy Brown.
When she visited the Herald, she was visibly angry. All she wanted was to be sought for a comment in the event such a report was to be written again. I managed to convince her though and she left.
But I recall how she spoke glowingly about her mother during the launch of Ancient Voices at the Alliance Francaise in 1998 before their performance with her father, Dumi. And when she performed the song Mai dedicated to Linda Nemarundwe, her mother who had passed away a year before, she moved the audience.


Sometimes I imagine I hear yo voice
In the trees whispering
Ahh… Ahh…
Mai, fambai zvakanaka (*1)
Mai, tichazomuona (*1)

Forever I remember your loving smile
Sunshine to my eyes
You had a spirit so full of joy
Ahh, the sweet surprise
I still find myself searching for your face
Though I know you’re gone
And its so hard to say goodbye
But I know it won’t be long
Mmm, til we ‘re together
I know it won’t be long
Mai, fambai zvakanaka
Mai, tichazomuwona
Sometimes I imagine I hear your voice
In the trees whispering

You had this way of understanding
Anything we say
Time was there whenever we needed
Oh anything we said
We search the whole world over for your smile
Though we know you’re gone
You will always be in our hearts
Oh, it won’t be long
No-no, till we’re together
No, it won’t be long
Mai, fambai zvakanaka
Mai, tichazomuwona
I imagine I hear your voice
Mai, tichazomuona
Mai, fambai zvakanaka
Mai, tichazomuwona

I also recall Dumi saying that Chi would crawl to the basement of their apartment in the US where he would be rehearsing for shows when she was just very young. He also said the girl would play around with mbira. And that at five, she showed an understanding of the music.
At 9, Chi recorded Tichazomuona with her father’s group Dumi & Minanzi. By 11 years, she was performing with her parents’ marimba band, Dumi & Minanzi 3. When she reached 14, Chi was a member of Mhuri yaMaraire alongside her sister and brother Tawona and Ziyanai.
At 15, the family returned to Zimbabwe where Chi enrolled at Mutare Girl’s High in 1990. A year later, while on holiday in Harare, she met Herbert Schwamborne and Tony Chihota who called themselves A Peace of Ebony. They were impressed with her performance and Chi was invited to join the group as the only female rapper.
POE, made up of Zimbabweans, German, American, Russian and Malawian, composed songs in Shona and English. The group’s hit, From a Native Tongue, rode high on the charts.
In 1994, the group composed Vadzimu for the Radio France International contest, ‘'Les Découvertes''.
At the time apart from Keith Farquhuarson, there were two others – Tendai Vikci and George Phiri as well as Karen Stally who came as a session musician.
The group won the Best New Group out of southern Africa award. They were then invited to Madagascar for a performance in Antananarivo for the finals where they were third.
Unfortunately, they split on their return to Zimbabwe. Chi was offered a contract by LusAfrica when she was already working with Andy Brown. She went on and recorded Ancient Voices.
After Andy Brown, she put together Vibe Culture. She has collaborated with Marie Boine, Brilliant, Kris Kristoffersen and Sinead O'Connor on the cd celebrating the 100th commemoration of the Nobel Peace Prize Awards, composing and performing for the UNDP Africa 2015 song project "Les Tams-Tams de l'Afrique" alongside Salif Keita, Habib Koite (Mali), Ishmael Lo, Youssou Ndour, Manu Dibango, Baaba Maal (Senegal), Achieng Abura (Kenya), Saintrick and Koffi Olomide (Congo).
She contributed to the Women Care cd recorded last year along with women artists from other African countries and from Norway.

Below is the interview she did with the Nordic Africa Institute

Chiwoniso Maraire was born 1976 in Olympia in Washington State in the United States, where her father Dumiso Maraire was studying and teaching music. She composes, writes lyrics, and plays mbira with her band Vibe Culture.

How did you become an mbira player?
I was born into a very musical family, both my parents were musicians. My father was an amazing mbira player, my mother was a beautiful singer, so I was surrounded by this music from my conception really because they used to teach classes in the house as well, so this music was always going on.
But at the same time they loved to listen to other people, so I grew up exposed to James Brown, Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Bach, Mozart, you name it, it was being played.
My early years until I was about eight were in Seattle, Washington, and it was a beautiful time. My parents were surrounded by all of these people of different origins, and a lot of American people as well, and they were just making beautiful music. And they wanted to know about Africa, they and the sound, so my parents were special in the community that we were living in. I started playing mbira when I was three.
When we came to Zimbabwe the first time I was about eight, and already by that time I knew I was different to the children around me because we always sort of lived in the suburbs, upper middle class, and I was going to schools where there is a lot of white Zimbabwean children, Indian Zimbabwean children and a small percentage of black Zimbabwean children. I was not in the environment where I would encounter other children my age that were playing mbira.
We lived here for about six years and then we went back to the States again because my Dad was finishing up his PhD in ethnomusicology. So once again I was surrounded by all these great musicians and academics and people that were deep into Africa and music in general. This is when I started performing on the stage, with my father, with songs that my Dad was writing.
It was when we came back when I was fifteen that I really started to come out as a composer and with my own songs, in 1991-1992. I was very nervous about bringing my music out. I had started building relationships with other mbira players, but it was mostly men and most of them older than me. There were just a few women mbira players: Stella Chiweshe, Beaulah Dyoko, Irene Chigamba.
And all of them were playing the same style, deeply traditional, beautiful music, but all in Shona. Nobody was then even thinking about singing in English. I was afraid, like "Are they going to think I am diluting the sound? But I had a lot of sort of support from my father and my husband at the time. After about three years, my first CD, "Ancient Voices", came out. People think it is new, because it has only begun to be accepted.
One thing that has intrigued me is that the phenomenon of mbira music seems to be much stronger here in Zimbabwe than elsewhere in Africa where you also find similar instruments. Why?
One of the reasons is this depth that it has as far as a spirituality is concerned. There are many very strong spiritual believers in this country. They do not come as much into prominence as people practising Christianity, but they are strong force within the country.
And for them mbira is essential as much as drums, hosho, and songs sung in certain ceremonies. The instrument is so connected to the spiritual world, besides being of entertainment, I think this is what helped it survive the transitional period that the country went through.
There are lots of people in Zimbabwe right now that are going into the gospel music thing. I respect that, as musicianship it is OK. But one gets a very strong feeling that a lot of people are doing it because they have found out that it is easy money, because generally when people are going through something difficult their faith in God tends to rise because they need to believe that at the end of all their suffering something good will happen.
What worries me is that there is no questioning or deeper studying of the religion and the concepts of the religion and what it is saying. I say it very strongly like this because a lot of people within that circle will really disrespect the strength of the mbira instrument. If they bothered to listen to the message they would realise that it is saying exactly what they run into churches to try and find. It is right there in your traditional music, if you would open your ears for the message given to the people all the time.
What is your own personal experience of mbira ceremonies?
I am not a spirit medium but I am very much in tune with the spiritual world and most of my close friends are also very in tune. There have been times when I have been in ceremonies and you are just overcome by the strong energy, and how it affects other people deeply. I always taken these experiences them as a reaffirmation that we are not alone, that there is so much more about existence than what we are able to see and perceive.
The experiences I have had have always been very moving, very powerful.
What do you say with your songs and music?
The singing and playing of the mbira is not just about personal enjoyment. I have come to a point where I literally feel like I am a vessel. Some of the stuff I will be singing will be about myself and experiences that I, or maybe people close to me have gone through. But a lot of the songs that we sing with my band "Vibe Culture", are more about things that we have to do to maintain morality and just the genuine love for the next person and the decency of humanity.
I would like to ask you whether you touch on any of these themes: love, land, traditions, HIV/AIDS, diaspora, poverty, ancestors, women's rights, violence.
I think I pretty much touch on all of them. Love, definitely. I have got a song called "Wandirasa", which I sing in English and Shona, where this young woman sings to her lover: "You and I, when we're together alone I am pretty much the world to you, but then when we're around other people I am no longer as important and why have you thrown me away. So yes, I have written a few love songs.
I have written a song that touches directly on violence and women's rights, whose title translated to English is "Give me love". Again it is a woman singing to her husband who is physically violent and not really wrapped up in the life of the children and she sings: "Give me love, my husband. Did we not build our home together? Give me strength, my darling. You are meant to be my friend and your family's tried to speak to you, your friends have tried to speak to you, you don't listen and I would much rather leave now while I am still young and have my life intact than wait for you to kill me". So that song gets some women crying sometimes in the audience.
Poverty, yes. "Madam Twenty Cents" is a song on my first CD. I'd just I had started up at the College of Music and the street situation was beginning to be bad, and I remember with friends of mine we were saying:
There was this blind guy who would sit on one corner every day and he would sing “Amanda tambura, Amanda nitida, Amanda tambura, Ambandi batudi", which is "My family, my kin, my family, look at me, my life has gone hard for me”, please help me". I would hear this every day and I went home and I am just hearing this thing. And a song just dropped out. It is basically a young boy asking "Madam twenty cents, please, I have no money today, my mother's sick and disabled and my father, he ran away to the city 5-years ago. He was looking for a job, he never returned and now we are all alone".
I touch on land, I did an old song on how the land of Zimbabwe came through war. It is not like a war cry song and I am not telling everyone "Okay, grab all the shovels and guns and start killing each other again", no, but it is a song to say that we should remember that for us to get where we are now it took a lot of pain and difficulty and some people died for that, and it is just nice to have a moment to stop and think about that.
So yes, I do touch on all of these things. But without being political. We don't get into that. "Vibe Culture" doesn't get into singing politics and stuff, but we do talk a lot about the other elements and entities of life.
I tend to like to go to the root emotion. I like to make the kind of music that regardless what you do in your life you will be able to feel something in that song. And whether it makes you feel a little painful or a little uncomfortable you can relate to it. I think Bob Marley's music was very much like that.
And now you are going to Senegal, tell me more about it.
I am very excited about it. Basically it is UNDP, United Nations Development Programme, and United Nations itself, - I guess world leaders are realising that there is a lot of things that are wrong with the way things are happening on the African continent. I mean, definitely without a doubt the first thing is the corruption amongst a lot of the leaders, and I say this without disrespecting African leaders because I think that you have to be strong to be a leader on a continent like this. But that cannot be ignored, that there are people that are taking their whole role way beyond where it should be.
But then on the other side is the reality that there are a lot of outside forces that affect what goes on, and people in Africa don't know this. This is part of what this whole project is about. The date has been set until 2015 to really get people wide awake about poverty, wide awake about AIDS and the related diseases, wide awake about their own strength as African people to make the decisions.
They want to start now, and get this message out through the music with the help of what they consider the strongest voices coming out of the continent at the moment, which made me feel very honoured. And I think that that is really great. UNDP is actually not just saying to the musicians "Listen, could you give us a song about this, we are going to do a CD". No, they say: "Look, let's all get together in one room because these are the issues that you guys talk about and what do you think we should include in this project over the next twelve years".
I have spent the last three days speaking to friends of mine in different levels, like other artist friends of mine and business friends of mine and banker friends of mine and CIO friends of mine and my domestic workers at home, the people that help me out at home, and just finding out people's different feelings about what's going on right now. I have made it like a very conscious thing to do these last few days because I feel like it is important to include these thoughts in whatever I say in Senegal, it is not just about where I am coming from but a whole nation.
Did you find any consensus in what they are saying?
Yes, definitely. Everybody agrees that land had to be redistributed but now there is arguments, that is where the argument starts it is either some people say "The process was too fast" other people say "It was too slow". There is the general concern amongst everyone about title deeds, whether or not people are getting title deeds.
What I love the most is that there is knowledge, especially amongst black Zimbabwean people, that the decisions that were taken in this country have - okay, some of the things have made life difficult for Zimbabweans, but on other parts also it really did expose the fear that the especially western politicians have towards an African country or a Third World, as it is so badly described, country saying "We're going to change the rules". There is a very serious fear of that, which is sad but it is also cool that it comes out in the open.
And there is concern amongst Zimbabwean people about what's going to happen in this land, not only dealing with corruption within the government but also dealing with this fear now that has caused western leaders to say "Place sanctions on them" and those sanctions are hurting a lot of people right now. Or to say "Okay, if they're going to travel anywhere make the visa's difficult to obtain". The Zimbabwean people now carrying a Zimbabwean Passport just to go into England, just to apply for a visa, you have to pay $134 000. That is non-refundable. Now that is a lot of money in Zimbabwean dollars, it is a lot of money.
My whole thing about life goes way beyond colour and religion. My concern is about mankind and it shows that there is still this element of politicians There are some people that are very badly treated because the ones that have the power are placing importance on very destructive elements of living, and that is just go to change. It may not change in my lifetime, it might not even change in my daughter's life time, but at least it is great to know that people that are conscious of that are doing something about it.
[Interview in Harare on 26 July, 2003]

Below is another interview done in January 2011 by Dzana Tsomondo

As I stepped into Joe’s Pub in downtown Manhattan, the first thing I heard was an mbira, which resulted in that odd feeling of experiencing something familiar in an unfamiliar place. I grew up in Zimbabwe and even though, thanks to the instrument’s growing popularity, it is no longer a complete shock to hear the sound of an mbira outside of Africa, I still associate that playful lilt with the land of my youth. The mbira is an idiophone, or as it is sometimes known colloquially, a thumb piano. The legendary Nigerian musician and scholar Babatunde Olatunji called it the “finger xylophone” and the mbira is the Zimbabwean version of a musical instrument that is found in many African cultures and their diaspora. And right now, the woman who represents that diaspora is on stage, the Zimbabwean-American singer Chiwoniso.
I have arrived halfway through the show, her first in New York City, and despite the healthy ticket prices, it has sold out. The crowd is diverse, young and old, white and black. Zimbabweans are well represented but the cheers are just as lusty when she shouts out New York as they are for Harare. No matter, she has them all in the palm of her hand, playing the crowd like a seasoned veteran. Although, knowing her history, that shouldn’t surprise me either. Her father is the late Dumisani Maraire, a man whose name is to the mbira what Shakespeare’s is to the stage. He was not only a master of the mbira and the marimba, Maraire also created the numerical system and accompanying notations that standardized mbira “keys” and underpin modern instruction in the instrument.

Since we are both Zimbabweans, first things first, what are your thoughts on the power-sharing agreement just signed [between the MDC and Mugabe’s ZANU-PF]?
Well, I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction. A lot of people were looking for something like this to happen in Zim, I mean, it’s not going to be the answer to all the problems but it will definitely alleviate a lot of the stress that this conflict has caused in the country. At the same time, I do hope that it will get to a point where it doesn’t have to constantly be about power sharing. We need to get to a point where if two parties go to elections and one of those parties wins, that has to be respected. That is my real feeling; it’s a good thing but it is not the “end” answer, especially for the future.
So would it be fair to characterize that as “guarded optimism”?
Yeah…that is as good a term as any other, I guess. I think things are gonna work out, it couldn’t stay the way it had been but to be honest I wish it had worked out in a different way, you know? Because now the government is saying “We are gonna acknowledge the fact that you guys did win the election but at the same time, we are not going to completely give up power”…is just a very uncomfortable frame of mind for me to get my head around. I think it would have been better to call it a “transitional government”…I think people, we the people need to choose our words with care when we say what we say. I know Zimbabwe is going to be okay, but it is going to take some serious work to sort it out.
Are you a Zimbabwean citizen?
No I am not, I am an American citizen and a permanent resident of Zimbabwe but I have lived in Zimbabwe longer than I have lived [in the U.S.].
When you were growing up what was transitioning back and forth between the U.S. and Zimbabwe like?
When I first went to Zimbabwe I was about seven. I lived there till I was eleven and the second time was when I was fifteen and I lived there until now. So the transition when I was young did not affect me so much but the second time around, when I was fifteen, was a culture shock. But not from the language, our parents had kept us closely linked to [Shona] so communication wasn’t the problem. Where I had the real difficulty was that I had been living in this huge musical community, sort of surrounded by musical people, in Seattle. And they were all people who were learning marimba and mbira from my dad, so there were all these musicians around me and when I found out we were going back to Zim I was excited. I thought, “Well, I am going to get to Zim and find all these musicians playing this music” and it was a real shock to find out that was not the case. So I had to do a lot of searching to find out why the reason was and it came out that it was because of the whole colonial hangover that was attached to mbira and marimba…especially mbira as an instrument, because of its spiritual connection and its power. So I went to my father and he was like “look, there’s a space that needs to be filled here and maybe you are one of the people who is supposed to do this, try to bring mbira back into people’s consciousness”. So I started very seriously doing that…I was part of a hip-hop group at one point called Piece of Ebony and we incorporated it…but yeah, that was one of the hard things. That aside, it wasn’t a huge “thing” to move back to Zimbabwe because we had been connected to it for so long.
Tell me about your family. Are you the oldest?
My father had eleven children with four different women, so out of that whole line, I come in fifth. With my dad and my mom, there were five of us and I am the oldest.
Was gender an issue, or part of the culture shock in moving back and forth?
Not really, I mean gender issues didn’t affect me at that time because I was in high school. It really started becoming something I was more aware of as I got into my twenties and then became a mother. To be very frank with you, I am very proud of being a Zimbabwean woman, a Zimbabwean-American woman, because Zimbabwe is one of the countries in Africa where I think women are much more liberated, one of the countries Vice-President’s is a woman, you know what I mean? I think that the challenges that women face across the globe, you find some of those issues in Zimbabwe as well but not as much as the Western World assumes it to be. If you go back into the Shona culture women have always been important, if you look at Shona tradition, the family cannot make decision without [the sisters in the family] being present because they hold that power of deciding what direction things are going to take. So if a woman’s rights are being disrespected while living in Zim, for example, I am not going to take it as being because she is in Zimbabwe because women’s rights all over the world are an issue…
What sort of trajectory has your recording career taken? Have you been on [your current record label] Cumbacha for a while?
I have been working with Cumbacha for about a year. Rebel Woman is my third CD, my first CD was about ten years ago, Ancient Voices and that was under the label Lusafrica, which I was working with at the time. And Ancient Voices did really well, especially in Zimbabwe and in Europe, it was really well received and brought in a lot of awards which was great. And then I took some time off, I’m a single mom with two daughters and I didn’t want things to get like, extremely hectic while the kids were still young. You have got to give them attention and I was traveling, performing and working on a lot of different projects, making music for films and stuff like that but I tried very much to keep my attention at home. I tried not to travel more than once or twice a year and when I did I tried not to go for long; I think the longest I ever left for was six weeks. Then I did a second CD about four and a half years ago, that was an acoustic record called Timeless. I wasn’t on my label anymore so I was mostly selling the CD at shows when I was touring with my acoustic trio…it did have distribution in Zimbabwe. I have brought it over here and been selling it at shows, so we are probably going to [re-release] it but who knows, we have to focus on Rebel Woman. And right now, yeah, I’m on tour supporting Rebel Woman.
So when you are on a tour like this, how do you deal with the fact that you are a single parent? How old are the kids?
Twelve and eight, two daughters. They are in the States, living with me and my sister, so right now my daughters plus my sister’s sons are with her husband and my brother. My brother came up to be there, so they have their uncles there. In Zimbabwe it was a different situation, of course I had someone staying with me, live-in help. But because she was there for so long she really became more of an aunt than anything else, and of course with the whole “family circle” it was very, very different having kids in Zimbabwe than it has been having kids here. There is far much more of a family thing in Zimbabwe and it is so much easier to get to someone’s house [laughs]. Things are closer. Being aware of that was one of the reasons why I took such time before I started doing this music as seriously as I am doing it now. I was always serious about it but now I can add the different dimension, you know what I mean?
They were born in Zimbabwe?
They were both born in Zimbabwe and are both American citizens. I have traveled with them before though; this is their second time coming to the States. Also, at the same time, I have taken them to Europe, South Africa, England…they are quite well traveled.
What are you listening to lately?
That's a good question. I've been listening to different stuff. Mostly, I've been listening the radio to get an idea of what is going on here. I've also brought some CDs from Zim, friends of mine that I love to listen to. Bruno Bokelo, from Angola, has this really funky thing going on that I love.
Have you encountered resistance being a woman playing what was traditionally a male instrument in the mbira?
I haven't encountered resistance to me playing mbira, as such. I have encountered people who think I should be playing something else and interestingly they both were women. I usually don't pay this type of thing any mind.
What is your favorite type of Mbira and why?
Nyunga nyunga, the one that I play! There is always room to improve on what you are playing. I love all the different mbira so I don't like to choose favorites. It's like choosing between good friends.
Going back to the situation in Zim, the European Union initially announced that they were going to withhold aid until they assess how this power sharing plays out. How do you feel about that and how do you feel about the way that the outside world dealt with the Zimbabwean crisis that essentially began on an international level with Mugabe’s “land reform” programs. I think it’s important to add our voices as Zimbabweans outside the country, who are exposed to the Western media, into the history of all this.
I was not surprised. Look, the IMF and the World Bank are [institutions] that were set up by the West, so they are meant to serve the Western World first and everyone else after. I was invited by the UN VP, a couple of years ago, to do this big recording project with these different artists from the African continent… so we sat down at this meeting with the guys from the [United Nations Development Programme]. They were talking about the Millennium Development Goals-that’s what the recording was for-and they were saying that one of the main things they wanted to do was eradicate poverty, and they were talking about places like Latin America, Africa and so on. So then I said “Well, if you want to eradicate poverty, instead of the whole world being told to follow what the IMF and the World Bank say, we need-as the African continent, for example- to create our own rules and means of figuring out how to work with each other, using rules that apply [regionally]. And one of the guys from the UNDP, who had been talking, kind of froze up and it was a very uncomfortable moment. As far as sanctions are concerned, I understand where they were coming from but things like that don’t hurt those in power, they only hurt the man on the street. It was very frustrating…but by that happening it also exposed the Western powers who basically said “If we can’t control what is going on in your country then there is not going to be in any money coming in, we are going to stop trade”. I have a big problem with the whole “Aid” thing. A lot of these countries that claim to be giving aid to a country like Zimbabwe are countries that used things like slavery to establish themselves as they are now. That is the foundation of countries like America, for example, they sold people, they came and colonized or took diamonds or land or wealth, so that isn’t aid to me. You owe these countries something. So again, it’s that choice of words and uncovering the mentality behind it.
I also am of two minds about the Western condemnation of Mugabe’s regime. Without a doubt, Mugabe has exhibited classic traits of despotism, tyranny and basically, a regime that has been corrupted by power. But it also seemed very self-serving of the British to refuse to pay the white farmers for their land because of moral reservations about Mugabe’s regime. These are the same people who give money to leaders in the Middle East and China who refuse to even hold elections and who’s secret police are far more deadly than Zimbabwe’s. It seemed to be as much about race as anything else, and it also seemed to me that the West was eager to hold Zimbabwe up as a warning to South Africa. South Africa’s situation seems like the elephant in the room…
Exactly. The land issue in South Africa…why do you think Mbeki was not saying much about the Zimbabwe situation, they know they are going to have to deal with the same stuff. And the [Afrikaners] are not people that you want to mess around with, compared to them, the Rhodesians are puppy dogs. It’s going to be a very serious issue. South Africa has not even started yet. Zimbabwe is a tiny country, South Africa has a huge population and a brutal legacy as far as the system that they became independent with. So the South African government is going to have to be really, really careful in how they deal with this issue and if they are wise, they will address it before it blows up in their face.