Top Zimbabwean filmmakers charged for ‘violating censorship laws’

Four leading Zimbabwean filmmakers were granted bail on Monday after being charged for allegedly screening a film without approval, their lawyers said, calling the arrests a “fresh censorship blitz” by the government.

eople walk near newspaper posters on Zimbabwe's current economic situation in Harare, Zimbabwe, 25 July 2019. Picture: EPA-EFE / AARON UFUMELI
eople walk near newspaper posters on Zimbabwe’s current economic situation in Harare, Zimbabwe, 25 July 2019. Picture: EPA-EFE / AARON UFUMELI
“Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers have charged four prominent artists with contravening the draconian Censorship and Entertainments Control Act after they allegedly exhibited an unsanctioned film,” Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said in a statement.

Director Daves Guzha, theatre manager Peter Churu, producer Tendai Humbasha Maduwa and script writer Kudakwashe Brian Bwititi were arrested after screening their film The Lord of Kush at the weekend.

Guzha is also a prominent playwright and actor as well as being perhaps Zimbabwe’s most famous theatre director.

In court, prosecutor Sebastian Mutizira accused the quartet of launching the film without approval from the country’s Censorship and Entertainments Control Unit.

He argued that the film, which depicts an unnamed religious group abducting the child of a Zimbabwean ambassador to Pakistan, could invoke conflicts among religious groups.

ZLHR said the censorship act was being used to target the artists in a “fresh censorship blitz”.

Their lawyers said the artists had spent several hours behind bars without being given a reason as they were only charged on Sunday after being arrested on Saturday evening.

Magistrate Barbra Mateko granted each artist bail amounting to ZWL$200 ($20) and remanded the case until Thursday, August 29.

Zimbabwe’s police and army have regularly used brutal force, including the use of live ammunition, to crush dissent.

Under former president Robert Mugabe artists were arrested and intimidated by security forces if their work was deemed to insult Mugabe or his government. AFP