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28 Mar 2009 06:00
Life is terribly boring in Harare since people have decided to start being so nice to one another.
Ask Daves Guzha, theatre producer. On Tuesday evening he gathered a group of about 50 theatre lovers to his newly reopened Theatre in the Park in central Harare to watch the premiere of the first play to open in the capital this year.
The audience seemed as excited about being at the theatre as they were by renowned local playwright Steven Chifunyise’s new work, Dependence—a drama with a dash of comedy about a dysfunctional Zimbabwean family.
Years of deepening national crisis provided work for many, including assorted rights groups, journalists and lawyers. For the arts, it yielded the fruit of biting political satire that led to bans and arrests. But now, in this new era of national unity, hugs and kisses, we’re all a bit stranded.
Guzha said Zimbabwean artists have been “love"stuck like this before; at independence in 1980 and again after the fall of apartheid.
“We’re at a crossroads in terms of new material. All material written before the unity government no longer has relevance.
“This is why we’ve had no new plays. We just couldn’t respond to the fast pace at which the political environment moved,” Guzha said.
The crisis is far from over, but Zimbabwe is taking small, shaky steps out of a decade of beatings, killings, hatred and eye-popping inflation. We had become safe in that misery, living off it. It had become our norm. This new era is just not “normal”.
The nation is still trying to get over images of Grace Mugabe weeping over Morgan Tsvangirai as he lay injured in hospital earlier this month. Days later, Robert Mugabe himself gave a touching eulogy at Susan Tsvangirai’s funeral. His long-time foe—bludgeoned to near death at one point and tried for treason—was “one of our own”.
Mugabe’s words had “changed my understanding of him”, said Tsvangirai’s own son in front of thousands of shocked MDC supporters.
Then came the sight of Zimbabwe’s two most powerful women, Tsvangirai’s deputy, Thokozani Khupe, and Mugabe’s number two, Joice Mujuru, exchanging party regalia at a sports arena last Friday.
Compare this with last year; a pulsating campaign leading to the March election, five weeks of guessing who actually won, the June one-man election, mind-boggling inflation, the opposition leader camping out in a foreign embassy and the seemingly endless talks that finally thrust this unfamiliar new spirit of peace and love upon us.
There is still a lot to point and jeer at, such as the size of the new government and its penchant for luxury SUVs and shiny Italian suits.
But despite the frustration over the failure to win financial aid and continuing farm violence there just isn’t enough animosity to lift the boredom. Last Saturday, at the Mannenberg club, “Cde Fatso” went on stage to complain that there just wasn’t enough violent crime around.
Currency reforms have killed off Harare’s roaring dealer culture. The hundreds of currency dealers who owned the streets are out of work and the many street chases between the police and dealers—and the adrenalin rush we got when changing money in some seedy alley—are gone.
Harare’s nightlife has lost some of its buzz since the diamond dealers went bust. They now spend their days at car lots desperately trying to flog their luxury vehicles and other bling, contemplating the horror of being forced to find regular jobs.
With the supermarkets choking with goods and the garages competing for customers, we miss the excitement of negotiating with back-street dealers for anything from bread to petrol.
The multimillion-dollar anti-Mugabe industry is in recession, and often lashes out against Tsvangirai’s betrayal.
At one press conference, Tsvangirai chastised a reporter who asked why he “trusts Mugabe”. The prime minister snapped. “It is President Mugabe,” he shot back, emphasising the “president” part.
State media are lost in a grey area. The ZBC no longer comes up with its comical conspiracy theories. The Herald has had to tone down its rhetoric, even banning its most acerbic columnist, “Nathaniel Manheru”, who heaped vulgar insults on opponents every Saturday in Chaucerian English. Many hated him, but everybody read him.
Now, The Herald runs lengthy odes to “unity of purpose”. It even called the MDC leader “Cde Tsvangirai”!
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