BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE – Nozipho Moyo, 23, calls herself a combative artist. She says authorities are employing extrajudicial measures to silence vocal artists like her in Zimbabwe.
Despite being shy, Moyo is a radical spirit. She sports trendy dreadlocks, tight jeans and a T-shirt. She says a number of artists have been followed to their homes and arrested after their performances.
“There is freedom of expression for artists in this country, but there certainly is no freedom after expression,” she says. “Artists may thrill crowds with their performances, inform and educate people on social, economic, religious and cultural issues. But after such performances, artists have to face the wrath of security agents if they say anything contrary to the views of the country’s political leaders.”
Moyo says that despite the onslaught, she strives to promote budding artists, particularly those in the performance sector. She does this through her organization, Zypo Zone Academy of Leadership, which is based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city.
“As a youth organization with a vision of promoting the growth and development of young people both academically and in their artistic skills, we engage established artists to come to mentor young people,” says Moyo, who serves as the director. “Our belief is that every artist has a dream that can be turned into reality if [nurtured] properly.”
Moyo says her organization’s vision is to ensure that all young people achieve their dreams and that all those who are interested in the arts get the support and exposure they need. Mentorship programs also strive to give confidence and guidance to the young people in general, she says.
Zimbabwean performing artists allege that they are being arrested, intimidated, tortured and jailed for their work. They also say they lack government support. The country’s national arts council maintains the government’s commitment to the welfare of artists. Artists say they also must commit themselves to developing their sector so that they can use art to improve the future state of politics, society, the economy and the environment in Zimbabwe.
The right of artists to express themselves is guaranteed under the declaration of rights in the Zimbabwean Constitution. According to Article 20 (1), “Except with his own consent or by way of parental discipline, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinion and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference and freedom from interference with his correspondence.” Despite such legal provisions, many artists say that authorities target them for expressing views that contradict the government.
One such law that hinders artists ’ expression here is the Public Order and Security Act, which has wide-ranging provisions that give vague powers to the police. The bill makes it illegal to “undermine the authority” of President Robert Mugabe. Punishment could include fines, jail time or even the death penalty.
There were 2,300 cases of politically motivated violence reported by general citizens in Zimbabwe from January to August 2011, the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee, which