The issue of Gukurahundi and Zimbabwe artists remains a diamond in a dark pit as human rights abusers continue to harass artists home and away in a bid to silence artistic voices. Whilst the world has the impression that Mugabe and ZANUPF are the only human rights abusers who are against artistic freedom of expression,prominent protest singer cum activist Viomak and other witnesses who have privately contacted Viomak have a different story to tell. The singer is paying back for singing a song about Gukurahundi as some Ndebeles continue to harass her for expressing herself.
Her life has come under a new wave of threats after another Ndebele man, Zenzele Ndebele, desperate for revenge, requested that someone expose her on Facebook. The singer who has been using a pseudonym since 2005 for security reasons is well known for her musical activism career that has seen her produce protest music to highlight the socio-political issues facing Zimbabweans whilst blaming ZANUPF and Mugabe for the mess. If caught she will be charged for going against POSA, a Zimbabwean law that has seen the arrest of artist Owen Maseko. Aware of this Zenzele Ndebele has gone on an evil spree to expose her in a bid to put herself and her family in trouble with ZANUPF. Commenting on the new development Viomak said,
“The life of a Zimbabwean protest artist is always in danger since freedom of expression oppressors are always against hearing the truth. The moment you create the truth you are assured of hoarding enemies who will do whatever is within their means in order to silence you.” She said.
The outspoken singer who was inspired by her experiences as a banned singer to set up a free expression organization that advocates for free expression continues to be harassed by some Ndebeles over her controversial song Gukurahundi with some claiming that she is not an artist and others saying she has defamed Lobengula by singing that Lobengula and Mugabe are human rights abusers as she called for Ndebeles and Shonas to unite. Some Ndebeles have written her emails demanding clarification and some have asked for explanations through her facebook message inbox.
The harassment leaves a lot to be desired as some of the Ndebeles including Zenzele Ndebele, are calling for the freedom of Owen Maseko who was recently arrested in Zimbabwe over Gukurahundi paintings. Zenzele Ndebele who was also at the forefront of highlighting Owen Maseko’s arrest, condemning the arrest as undemocratic and disallowing artistic freedom accused Viomak of misleading the nation in her lyrics. Ndebele who was also angered by Viomak ‘s use of the word madzviti in the song attacked her on why she used the word madzviti saying it is not helpful in any way.
“Coincidentally Owen Maseko was arrested for painting the story of Gukurahundi something which is deemed as not helpful by Mugabe’s laws, and Zenzele Ndebele and other Ndebeles are persecuting me for singing the story of Gukurahundi which they say is not helpful in any way. This is hypocrisy at its best on Zenzele’s side and his other culprits. ”
Since Gukurahundi many Ndebeles have blamed Mugabe and the Shonas for the massacres in Matebele land .Up to today some Ndebeles harbour feelings of hate and anger towards Shonas which is one reason why some Ndebeles are calling for Owen Maseko ‘s freedom and Viomak’s persecution even though the artists are exposing similar issues.
Apart from being irked by the fact that Viomak went beyond the history of Mugabe and Gukurahundi and touched on the history of the Shonas and Lobengula (a history that some Ndebeles don’t want to hear about) Zenzele was also irked by the fact that Viomak exposed him as a hypocrite and a tribalist who was giving people the impression that Viomak was glorifying Mugabe’s Gukurahundi and yet he was actually helped to market his Gukurahundi film by her.
Despite the fact that Viomak was instrumental in helping Ndebele market his Gukurahundi film, phoning Ndebele (who she has not met in person) in Zimbabwe to have him post the DVD to her at Viomak’s cost, Ndebele has gone on a spree to expose the singer’s real name knowing very well that the protest singer has officially assumed the name Viomak for security reasons.
After deleting Viomak from his Facebook friends’ list the defeated and annoyed Ndebele allegedly posted a desperate message on facebook on Tuesday. His desperate request quoted below is said to have harvested less than five responses.
“Viomak is arguably the only woman Zimbabwean protest singer and one of the country’s popular protest musicians. Viomak has been likened to opposition activists and journalists, who are being harassed and arrested under laws such as POSA designed to quell discontent.”
He went on to say ,
“THIS Women LIKES BEATING HER OWN DRUM.WHO CAN TELL ME HER REALLY NAME. Tue at 3:24pm · Comment · Like”
Unknown to Zenzele Ndebele, the first part of his message that he plagiarized from Wikipedia was taken from a story on Viomak which was written by a Zimbabwe journalist. Ndebele thought he was exposing the singer as someone who beats her own drum all in an effort to discredit her work.
Even though the banned singer is a well known protest artist, Zenzele Ndebele and his mates are desperate to discredit her as one despite the fact that in November 2007 Ndebele wrote an article titled, “How Zimbabwean musicians avoid censorship” that was published on FreeMuse in which he indicated that “Another way of evading censorship is to migrate to other countries. There are a lot of Zimbabwean artists who have left the country and what they produce is not kind to the government. Artists such as Viomak, Thomas Mapfumo, Lucky Moyo (formerly of Black Umfolosi), and others, have been making international headlines from their exiles. ”
A few days back as Zenzele and a group of other Ndebeles verbally attacked the singer on facebook over the song, Viomak had to report the abuse by one Shalton Yotham Ngwenya to the police after he sent her a hate message. She is still to get updates on the issue.
This is not the first time the singer has been threatened by Ndebele men. In December last year Admore Tshuma a former Zimbabwe Government run Chronicle chief reporter warned her that he will not be intimidated by her in an email . The harassment came unexpectedly to her as she had done nothing wrong to him. As the man threatened her he went on to warn her that he is thick skinned and would not be intimidated by people like her .After discussing the issue at that time Viomak confirmed that it could have been about her Gukurahundi song even though Tshuma gave her the impression that he wanted to investigate GCN on medical funds. Viomak highlighted that what transpired that day did not warrant that she be threatened like that.
The arrest of artist Owen Maseko over his Gukurahundi paintings and the threats on Viomak’s life over her song Gukurahundi is evidence that freedom of artistic expression is still not guaranteed amongst some Ndebeles and ZANUPF, and that protest artists are constantly under threat. Maseko’s paintings which are interpreted by some as demeaning Shonas and Mugabe was arrested for his art. Viomak’s song which is interpreted by some as demeaning Ndebeles and Lobengula is being threatened for her art.
In the meantime Prime minister Tsvangirai has called for tolerance in a speech emailed to me by Viomak when he said,
“Therefore, there can be no place in the new Zimbabwe for hate speech or the persecution of any sector of our population based on race, gender, tribe, culture, sexual orientation or political affiliation. All of us are entitled to our own opinions on certain values and beliefs, but in order to move our nation forward and achieve national reconciliation and healing, we have to uphold and foster the fundamental principle of tolerance, including tolerance of people that have chosen to live, believe and vote differently from ourselves.”