Police arrested theatre producer and actor Silvanos Mudzvova on 13 April 2016 in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare for staging his new play ‘Missing Diamonds, I Need My Share’ at parliament, reported national newspaper News Day.
Mudzvova was released later that evening, according to the artist’s Facebook status update on 14 April 2016:
“Cdes, colleagues and friends thank you for the support. Thank you for the solidarity messages. I was released last night without being charged and the police will call when they find a suitable charge. That’s Zimbabwe for you. Am still demanding my $1000 share.”
Mudzvova’s play was inspired by recent statements made by president Robert Mugabe who said in March 2016 that foreign mining companies have stolen billions from their diamond industry. However, some in the country believe that, in fact, the money has gone to top officials.
“What I am demanding is my share of that money — I mean me and my four kids. I want my $5,000 and I want answers from Parliament,” Mudzvova explained to news outlet Daily News.
“I have been working on a documentary about Marange diamonds as I felt things were not adding up. I have visited the Marange community several times and the plight of the villagers in the Marange-Zimunya area is shocking,” Mudzvova told News Day. “And when Mugabe spoke about the missing $15 billion, I was not surprised and told myself that since it was now public information, let me just do a one-man play demanding my share of the missing $15 billion.”
Zimbabwe’s relationship with censorship
On 31 March 2016, Freemuse and Zimbabwean arts advocacy organisation Nhimbe submitted a joint stakeholder report on artistic freedom in Zimbabwe to the United Nations ahead of Zimbabwe’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review the UN mechanism that reviews every UN member’s human rights record every four-and-a-half years.
The organisations recommended that the country should abolish its Censorship Act and any prior censorship bodies or systems, as the country’s 2013 constitution already guarantees the right to freedom of artistic expression, but the country’s laws and practices of police and state agencies limit the actual freedom and instils fear and self-censorship.
Performance at other venues
The first staging of Mudzvova’s play was the one that took place at the parliament building, where Mudzvova intended legislators to watch it as they entered the building to “politely remind them that $15 billion is a lot of money and it should be talked about until those responsible for stealing it are brought to justice”.
Mudzvova planned two more enactments: one on 14 April 2016 outside the Chinese embassy and the other on 15 April 2016 outside the Mbada Diamond offices, to demonstrate and to build on his idea that theatre, at this point in time, should not be performed in halls, but rather in the streets where the people are.
Other incidents with the law
This is not Mudzvova’s first brush with the law over his art. In 2011, he and seven others were arrested and detained for 48 hours for putting on a play entitled ‘Rituals’ and were later charged with criminal nuisance and disturbing the peace. The case was later dismissed.
In 2007, he and another actor were arrested at the premiere of his play ‘Final Push’, which was seen by some as an instigation to remove Mugabe’s party Zanu PF from power.
Photo sourced from Mudzvova’s Facebook page
» News Day – 13 April 2016:
Breaking: Theatre star arrested over ‘$15bn diamond money’ play
» Daily News – 13 April 2016:
‘Bring back our $15 billion’
» News Day – 9 April 2016:
Missing $15 billion inspired Mudzvova
» Freemuse.org – 31 March 2016:
Artistic freedom in Zimbabwe: Joint stakeholder report submitted to the UN
» Artsfreedom.org – 27 October 2015:
Zimbabwe: Censorship board should be abolished, says workshop group