Liberation mining to expand mining exploration projects in Zimbabwe
March 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Wallace Mawire
Viktor Tskhovrebov, CEO of Liberation mining revealed at the Zimbabwe mining investment conference held in Harare on 27 and 28 February,2018 that the company was keen to expand its mining operations targeting chrome, gold and platinum in Zimbabwe.
The company is already engaged in coal mining in the country. It is also involved exploration, mining, processing, road and rail logistics, sales and trading including export operations. It has developed Lubimbi coal project in Matebeleland North province in Zimbabwe.
According to a statement released at the mining conference, the mission of the company is to efficiently use natural resources and ensure long term sustainable development of its projects and maintaining support for the environment.
Some of company’s global mining operations are in Russia, US, Venezuela, Singapore and Indonesia.
Global mineral exploration projects have targeted coal, nickel, gold, bauxite and manganese.
Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the African Development Bank Group: “Accelerating Africa’s industrialization”
March 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
|21 – 25 May 2018, Busan Exhibition Conference Center, Busan, Republic of South Korea|
|ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, March 23, 2018/ — The 53rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank and 44th Meeting of the Board of Governors of the African Development Fund (http://www.AfDB.org/am), the concessional arm of the Bank Group, are scheduled to take place from May 21-25, 2018 in Busan, Korea.
While Africa has enjoyed strong economic growth for almost two decades, the continent has not seen a commensurate rise in industrialization. On average, African industry generates merely US$700 of GDP per capita, which is barely a fifth in East Asia (US$3,400). In addition, African exports consist of low technology manufactures and unprocessed natural resources, which represent more than 80 percent of exports from Algeria, Angola or Nigeria, for example.
Africa’s rapid industrialization holds the potential for a win-win scenario – for the world, and certainly for the continent. It would also help raise productivity by spurring technological progress and innovation while creating higher-skilled jobs in the formal sector; promote linkages between services and agricultural sectors; between rural and urban economies; and among consumers, intermediates and capital goods industries. Industrialization will also make the prices of manufactured exports less volatile or susceptible to long-term deterioration than those of primary goods, as well as help African countries escape dependence on primary commodity exports.
The theme is generating a lot of interest at a time when Korean and Asian companies are increasingly active in Africa. What lessons can Africa learn from Korea’s development experience? Can relations between both regions, built on a win-win formula, enable Africa claim a more significant share of world trade? Can Afro-Asian commercial and financial ties favor the development of the African private sector? What are the most effective policy levers that could foster structural transformation on the continent? How can the continent learn from the experiences of Korea and leading African nations such as Mauritius, Morocco, Ethiopia, and Rwanda in the industrialization process? These and other questions will be debated during the Busan Annual Meetings.
The Annual Meetings are one of the largest economic gatherings on the continent. Thousands of delegates, Heads of State, public and private sectors stakeholders, development partners and academics, will reflect on Africa’s industrialization − one of the Bank’s High 5 strategic priorities (https://www.afdb.org/en/the-high-5) and an avenue to improve the living conditions of Africans.
During the meetings, the Bank will organize a series of knowledge events to generate new ideas for developing and financing Africa’s industrialization. Highlights of the meetings will include a high-level presidential panel on Accelerating African Industrialization: Bringing the future to the present. The panel will be a platform for political leaders from Africa and Korea to present their visions and strategies for industrialization as well as ideas for overcoming implementation challenges.
The Bank will launch the updated version of the African Economic Outlook (AEO) 2018 – the Bank’s flagship economic publication. Several knowledge events are on the programme such as Pathways to Industrialization, where panelists will deliberate on the various trajectories African countries can follow towards sustainable industrialization. A panel on Future of Work and Industrialization will examine how Africa can adapt its educational systems and workers’ skills to suit new economic realities, particularly for industrial development of the continent, among other sessions.
Journalists willing to take part in the Meetings are requested to send to the Bank a designation letter from their news organization at the following address: (firstname.lastname@example.org). Upon receipt of the letter, the Bank will send a personal code that will allow online registration. Online registration will close on 13th May 2018. Journalists from countries without Korean diplomatic representation should register early enough in order to get assistance from the Bank in obtaining a visa should they need one.
The African Development Bank will not cover transport and subsistence costs for journalists travelling to Busan.
Republic of Malawi becomes Africa Finance Corporation’s 18th Member State
March 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
LILONGWE, Malawi, March 23rd, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The Republic of Malawi (“Malawi”) has become the second Southern African member country of Africa Finance Corporation (“AFC” or “the Corporation”), Africa’s leading infrastructure development finance institution.
The accession of Malawi to AFC’s membership is a progression of the Corporation’s existing investment footprint in the country. AFC had previously acted as Joint Mandated Lead Arranger (MLA) and Lender for a US$60 million commodity trade finance facility to Meridian Consolidated Investments Ltd (Malawi), the integrated agricultural commodities trading group to finance Meridian’s fertilizer importation and sale in four Southern African countries.
Malawi’s accession also supports AFC’s membership expansion strategy into Southern Africa, and continued alignment of its country membership with its investment footprint. Malawi, which signed its letter of adherence on 8th March 2018, becomes AFC’s 18th member state. Other member states include: Benin, Cape Verde; Chad; Côte d’Ivoire; Djibouti; Gabon; the Gambia; Ghana; Guinea-Bissau; Guinea-Conakry; Kenya; Liberia; Nigeria; Rwanda; Uganda; Sierra Leone and Zambia.
Cumulatively, the Corporation has to date invested US$4.5 billion in projects across 28 African countries, and in a wide range of sectors including power, telecommunications, transport and logistics, natural resources, and heavy industries.
Andrew Alli, CEO of AFC, commented on the announcement: “We are delighted to welcome Malawi as a member country of the Corporation. Malawi has a rich pipeline of bankable investments in the infrastructure space, and we are looking forward to exploring these opportunities. We are confident our unique business offering across project advisory, project development and financing in our 5-specialist sectors will go a long way towards closing the infrastructure gap in the country”.
Hon. Dr. Goodall Gondwe, Malawi’s Minister of Finance, also commented on the announcement: “Malawi has an abundance of infrastructure projects with huge financial and social potential that will create benefits for all stakeholders, and close the country’s infrastructure gap. We are, therefore, honoured to join AFC, and become a member state of the Corporation. We look forward to further engaging with AFC’s management to support the delivery of critical projects across Malawi”.
Today’s technology offers financial institutions in Africa countless opportunities to improve their business
March 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
KIGALI, Rwanda, March 23, 2018/ — Speakers at the International Conference on Responsible and Inclusive Finance (ICRIF) (http://www.amir.org.rw) held in Kigali on 21 March urged Rwandan microfinance institutions (MFIs) to embrace new-age technology to streamline their operations and to enhance their ability to extend financial inclusion among the country’s unbanked and underbanked population.
Straton Habyalimana, senior programme manager for responsible financing at the Small Enterprise Education and Promotion Network, told the 400 delegates at the conference that MFIs should adopt digital platforms to enhance their interactions with their customers. Kigali-based digital financial services expert, James Kwezi, said that MFIs should use technology to become more efficient and profitable.
This aligns with the National Bank of Rwanda’s (BNR) call to Rwandan financial sector firms to embrace automation to reduce their operating costs and their rate of bad loans. “Many microfinance institutions in East Africa still depend on paper-driven processes or Excel spreadsheets to manage their businesses,” commented Vedran Lescan, business development manager at Oradian, a global financial inclusion company that delivers a cloud-based toolset for financial institutions.
“But with the latest advances in financial technology (fintech) and cloud software, Rwandan MFIs now have access to powerful, affordable tools that can help them transform inefficiencies into operational excellence, scale their businesses for rapid growth and get better visibility into the performance of their portfolios. This, in turn, can boost their profitability and enable them to better serve the needs of their financially excluded customers.”
At the conference, Lescan took part in a panel discussion about finding ways to overcome the challenges that financial institutions face when it comes to adopting new technology and implementing it across an entire business with multiple branches.
He said: “Data migration is an important step in digital transformation, but organisations often overlook it or underestimate how time-consuming and complex it can be. Even though an MFI’s workforce can quickly learn a new system, the software wont add value if data isn’t migrated from the previous legacy system or from spreadsheets in a consistent manner.”
As part of Oradian’s toolset, Oradian’s in-market teams provide data migration training and support to ensure the financial institution’s data is treated as an asset that enables better decision-making and better client service. Lescan also advised MFIs to seek out toolsets that offer robust security and data protection features, including audit trails, user permissions and other functions to combat data leakages, fraud and user error.
“Today’s technology offers financial institutions in Africa countless opportunities to improve their business,” Lescan said. “However, financial inclusion leaders are promoting partnerships with fintech providers (https://goo.gl/iSjsG6), rather than vendor relationships, to drive truly successful implementations. “
Fintech partnerships provide financial institutions with the resources and global best practice they need to rapidly overcome the common challenges of digital transformation.
“Strategic partnerships within the digital ecosystem are proving to be the most effective way to enable our customers to provide better service to their end-clients,” Lescan said. “We are eager to work with the central bank, MFIs and other members of the value chain to drive financial inclusion in Rwanda.”
Oradian is a financial inclusion company serving financial institutions in remote, hard-to-reach communities. Using insights from our community of customers, we build a cloud-based toolset that smart financial institutions plug into to access best practice and efficiency. Oradian’s global community is made up of over 50 financial institutions in seven countries with a concentration in the Philippines and Nigeria. Collectively, Oradian’s partnering financial institutions provide access to financial services for over one million end-clients.
Kenyatta, Uhuru détente: Time for African politics to reinvent itself
March 23, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Prince Kurupati
On August 8, 2017, Kenya held its presidential election. The election was conducted in a tense environment and since then, the two main candidates going into the elction (Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta) had been at loggerheads. However, Kenyans woke up to a surprise on 16 March, 2018 as the two held a press release where they stated their new found desire to move on a reconciliation path as ‘brothers’.
The news came as a surprise to virtually everyone especially considering that it had barely been a month since Odinga had inaugurated himself as the ‘People’s President’ in a move which prompted Kenyatta to retaliate by charging some of Uhuru Kenyatta’s supporters with criminal nuisance and even issued arrests for some including the lawyer who inaugurated Odinga.
While the path of reconciliation taken by Odinga and Kenyatta is commendable, it is a bitter taste for those that were involved in the political violence and disturbances that saw over a 100 people dead and hundreds of others injured and displaced in the aftermath of the August 8, election. It is against this background that this article calls for Africa to reinvent itself.
Shifting from the culture of violence
From Cape to Cairo, African politics suffer from the culture of violence. Be it, sponsored violence induced by politicians or the random desire by one group (ethnic/tribal/race/social class etc.) to dominate another, African countries at one point or the other experience disturbing acts of violence that are politically motivated.
While the top hierarchy rarely suffers from this violence, it’s the total opposite when it comes to those at the bottom. True to the proverb, “when two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers” the general African populace has been affected and suffered the most from political disturbances. This, therefore, means that if any reinvention is to come, it is imperative that it starts from the bottom up for it to be effective.
One of the many memories that the legend Bob Marley left us is his wisdom and this wisdom is perfectly embedded in this saying, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but our selves can free our minds.” The first and probably the only step that Africans need to take in order to overthrow the culture of political violence is for them to become aware of the political, economic and social conditions that lead them to engage in acts of violence. Such conditions which among other things include race, ethnicity, tribalism, and inferiority complex are so enmeshed in the hearts and minds of most Africans such that they subconsciously dictate how Africans think and act.
In order for Africans to emancipate themselves from these terrible conditions, it’s imperative that first, they become conscious of the conditions that exist within their minds which blindly leads them to engage and commit in terrible acts. Only when the people become conscious can there be a shift from the culture of violence to a culture of peace in African politics.
Politics of personality
While the public possesses the power to force a shift from the culture of violence, the politicians themselves can also play a part in this shift. Often times, politicians prey on the vulnerabilities of the masses, they draw support from entrenching themselves in the politics of ethnicity, tribalism and in some cases religion and gender.
By identifying with one group, they become the hero or saviour of that group and the result is that it ends up creating politics of personality; the problem with politics of personality is that it blinds people, instead of following the objective path they become subjective. They blindly follow even when the politician goes on a wrong path and when another group tries to highlight his/her flaws, those blindly following feel like they and their ‘hero’ have been attacked and find a justification for defending themselves in often times a violent manner. It’s important therefore that African politicians move past politics of personality to politics of substance.
Africans need conscientization and African politicians need to desist from politics of personality to politics of substance, then and only then can Africans see each other as friends in the political arena even when disagreeing just like the newfound friendship of Kenyatta and Odinga.
Zimbabwe government urged to preserve wetlands on World Water Day
March 23, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Wallace Mawire
In a statement released on world water day the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has called on the Zimbabwe government to take concrete action to preserve wetlands that play an important role in
ensuring that all people living in the country have access to water.
The United Nations World Water Day is commemorated every year on 22 March, which is a day that has been set aside to recognise the importance of water to people’s subsistence and a day to reflect on
how people are managing their water resources.
According to the ZLHR, although Zimbabwe joined the world in commemorating World Water Day under the theme “Nature for Water”, it is worrying that people around the world and particularly in Zimbabwe continue to struggle to enjoy the constitutionally guaranteed right to safe, clean and potable water.
ZLHR said that it expresses grave concern at the continued destruction and disturbance of wetlands around Zimbabwe.”This destruction and degradation of wetlands has far reaching implications on the sustained
availability of ground water, which is also heavily relied upon by many households that are not able to access municipal water.
Further,wetlands also play an important role of purifying water that passes through them, flowing towards rivers, streams and other water bodies. Wetlands are also important as they minimise the possibility of flooding of roads or fields as they trap water,” ZLHR said.
It is further added that wetlands need to be maintained for the ecosystem to be preserved.
” It is imperative that local authorities, and relevant government actors, and people living in Zimbabwe take relevant measures to ensure that wetlands areas are protected from developments that have recently
ZLHR reminds the government that as a member of the Ramsar Convention, which Zimbabwe joined on 3 May 2013, the time is now to act and not pay lip service to the commitments voluntarily made to conserve wetlands in the country,” they said.
It is added that ZLHR is particularly appalled that while the country has seven (7) ‘Wetlands of International Importance’ some have been under attack in recent months.
“This is despite the commitment to ‘wisely use wetlands’ as provided in Article 2 of the Ramsar Convention.”
On World Water Day, ZLHR therefore calls for immediate action by the government to ‘wisely use wetlands’ by:
• Ensuring that the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate in collaboration with other state actors and stakeholders prevent any further construction on wetlands area;
• Taking concrete corrective action to address the encroachment of
wetlands that has already occurred around the country;
Zambian Opposition Files Motion to Impeach President Lungu
March 22, 2018 | 0 Comments
Motion to be tabled by lawmakers in parliament on March 28
Opposition got one-third of lawmakers to back proposal
By Taonga Clifford Mitimingi and Matthew Hill*Zambia’s main opposition party filed a motion in parliament to impeach President Edgar Lungu, saying he violated the constitution.
Nicolas Sarkozy: French ex-president says funding probe is ‘hell’
March 22, 2018 | 0 Comments
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy says allegations he received campaign funding from late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are making his life “hell”.
“I am accused without any physical evidence,” Mr Sarkozy told magistrates, Le Figaro newspaper reports.
He has been placed under formal investigation for illicit election campaign financing in 2007, misappropriation of Libyan public funds and passive corruption.
Mr Sarkozy, 63, denies any wrongdoing.
The centre-right politician, who was in police custody being questioned for two days this week, says his Libyan accusers are seeking vengeance for his decision to deploy French warplanes during the uprising which overthrew Gaddafi in 2011.
On Thursday, Le Figaro published what it said was the full court statement made by Mr Sarkozy to French investigators (in French).
In it, he says that he is aware the allegations against him are “serious”, but that they amount to “slander” and have made his life “hell” since 11 March 2011, when the claims were first made by Gaddafi.
Hammer blow for ex-leader
Analysis by Hugh Schofield, BBC News, Paris
These accusations against Nicolas Sarkozy are in a different realm from all those other judicial problems that he has faced. The others are classic allegations of illegal party funding and abuse of influence.
This one is about taking money from a foreign dictator.
In each case, presumption of innocence has to prevail. Mr Sarkozy’s key argument is that he is the victim of a left-wing vendetta: judges out to get him.
On Libya, he points out that his accusers – henchmen of Gaddafi and sleazy middlemen – are not exactly paragons of veracity.
But the truth is that this is a hammer blow to the former president. The judges believe there are “serious and coherent” indications that he did indeed take money from the Libyans, and on that basis they will now conduct their investigation.
The implications are devastating. If the charges are true, then the whole story of Sarkozy’s presidency will have to be re-assessed. More importantly, what would it say about the French-led campaign to topple Gaddafi in 2011? A campaign in which the UK was persuaded by France to take part.
Big questions – if the charges are true. But don’t expect any quick answers. This case could drag on for years.
What is the Libya case about?
In 2013, France opened an investigation into allegations that Mr Sarkozy’s campaign had benefited from millions of euros of illicit funds from Gaddafi.
He failed in his bid to return to power in 2012, however, losing to Socialist candidate François Hollande.
The claims came from a French-Lebanese businessman, Ziad Takieddine, and some former Gaddafi regime officials.
In November 2016, Mr Takieddine told the French news website Mediapart that in 2006-2007 he had handed over three suitcases stuffed with 200- and 500-euro notes to Mr Sarkozy and Claude Guéant, who was his chief of staff.
Mr Takieddine alleged the cash came from Gaddafi and totalled €5m (£4.4m; $6.2m).
Mr Sarkozy was detained in 2014 in a separate investigation into alleged campaign funding abuses – the first time this has happened to a French ex-president.
Mr Guéant, who was managing Mr Sarkozy’s presidential campaign in 2007, told the franceinfo website on Tuesday that he had “never seen a penny of Libyan financing”.
He was placed under formal investigation earlier this year over a €500,000 bank transfer in 2008. He has denied wrongdoing and claimed the money came from the sale of two paintings.
Does Sarkozy face other charges?
Criminal proceedings have been launched against Mr Sarkozy in one other case of alleged illicit campaign financing.
It is alleged that he engaged in accounting fraud to overshoot the ceiling for campaign expenditure in 2012, which was €22.5m.
Mr Sarkozy denies he was aware of the overspending.
The affair is known as the Bygmalion scandal.
In connection with his 2007 campaign, Mr Sarkozy was previously cleared over claims that he had used secret funding from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and that he had tried to influence investigating magistrates.
Zimbabwe’s president releases thousands from prison
March 22, 2018 | 0 Comments
By FARAI MUTSAKA*
HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s new president is commuting death sentences for some prisoners and releasing thousands of people from prison, including most women and everyone under age 18.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement Wednesday is an effort to ease overcrowded prisons. He has said he is against the death penalty because he once survived hanging when the southern African nation was still colonial Rhodesia.
Nearly 100 people are on death row in the country of 13 million. Those on it for at least a decade are having their sentences commuted to life in prison.
Zimbabwe’s last execution was in 2005, partly because no one was willing to be the hangman.
All women except those serving life sentences are being freed. Also freed are prisoners who are disabled or terminally ill and those sentenced to life before Feb. 28, 1998.
About 3,000 prisoners are expected to benefit, said prison deputy commissioner-general Alford Mashango Dube. He said the current prison population is about 20,000 and capacity is 17,000.
Zimbabwe’s former leader Robert Mugabe in November said he was considering resuming executions. But weeks later Mnangagwa took power with the military’s assistance after factional fighting within the ruling party.
Zimbabwe changes law limiting majority ownership by the state to diamond, platinum mines
March 22, 2018 | 0 Comments
By MacDonald Dzirutwe*
HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe has changed its empowerment law to limit majority ownership by state entities to only diamond and platinum mines and not the entire mining sector as in previous legislation, according to a government notice.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa first announced the proposed changes to scale back the mine ownership in the 2018 budget statement in December.
The amendments were included in the Finance Act, which covers the 2018 budget and were signed into law by Mnangagwa on March 14, a government notice seen by Reuters on Monday showed.
Foreign investors are allowed to have full control in any other mining venture, the notice said.
Mnangagwa has said at various forums that “Zimbabwe is open for business” as he seeks to revive an economy that was ruined under Mugabe’s near four-decade rule.
Zimbabwe has the second largest known platinum deposits after South Africa and the two largest producers Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum Holdings have operations in the country.
The amendments also open up 12 sectors previously reserved for locals such as bakeries, transport and beauty salons to Zimbabweans of all races instead of black Zimbabweans.
Africa agrees to giant trade bloc, but Nigeria, South Africa sit it out
March 22, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Clement Uwiringiyimana*
KIGALI (Reuters) – African leaders agreed on Wednesday to form a $3 trillion continental free-trade zone encompassing 1.2 billion people, but its two biggest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, did not sign up, diminishing its impact.
The African Union started talks in 2015 to establish a 55-nation bloc that would be the biggest in the world by member states, in a bid to increase intra-regional trade, which sits at a measly 15 percent of Africa’s total commerce.
Rwandan president Paul Kagame, host of an AU summit called to conclude the initial negotiations, declared the meeting a success after 44 African nations signed up to establish the free trade bloc within 18 months.
It was not immediately clear why South Africa and Nigeria stayed on the sidelines. Others staying out of the bloc were Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Burundi, Eritrea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau.
“It would have been great if the two biggest economies on the continent, Nigeria and South Africa, had signed, but the most important is that the rest of the continent is sending a right message to these two biggest economies that we are moving ahead without you,” said Michael Kottoh, an analyst at Confidential Strategies in Ghana.
The project needed a minimum of 22 countries signing up to get off the ground and Kagame hailed the effort so far.
“What is at stake is the dignity and well-being of Africa’s farmers, workers and entrepreneurs,” he said.
AU trade commissioner Albert Muchanga also put a positive spin on the absence of the top two African economies, telling Reuters they would soon join in.
“They are still doing national level consultations and so when they finish they will be able to come on board,” he said.
Economists point to Africa’s low level of intra-regional trade as one of the reasons for the continent’s enduring poverty and lack of a strong manufacturing base.
It is blamed on a host of factors, from colonialism, to high internal tariffs to poor road and rail links to excessive border bureaucracy and petty corruption at frontier checkpoints.
The relatively small size of many African markets – only Nigeria and Ethiopia have populations estimated at 100 million people or more – also inhibit private sector investment.
Africa already has an alphabet soup of competing and overlapping trade zones – ECOWAS in the west, EAC in the east, SADC in the south and COMESA in the east and south – although only the EAC, driven mainly by Kenya, has made significant progress towards a common market in goods and services.
Analysts said governments needed to do more to ensure goods and people flowed freely across borders.
“If they just sign the agreement without opening the borders, without getting rid of non-tariff barriers and if they don’t work on free movement of people, it is not going to work,” analyst Kottoh said.
Even the six-nation EAC has its sticking points – Tanzania has been known to kick out Kenyan executives and impound Kenyan imports at the border, in violation of EAC rules.
Businessmen said the current set-up forced them to look outside the continent, particularly Asia for manufactured goods.
“It is easy and cheaper to buy in Asia than to buy in the sub-region because of less-flexible rules of origin and non-tariff barriers that are not clear,” said Meriem Bensalah-Chaqroun, head of the Moroccan Confederation of Businesses.
Sudden changes in rules and impromptu checks on goods also held up supply chains.
“Some countries all of a sudden decide they are going to do a quality check on goods but they don’t really know what they want to check. That slows the trade,” said Thomas Schafer, CEO of Volkswagen Africa.
“We are not able to bring a vehicle from South Africa into Zimbabwe in a cost-efficient and fast way. That needs to change.”
Zimbabwe’s Powerful Music of Struggle
March 22, 2018 | 0 Comments
By Anakwa Dwamena*
In April of 1980, when Bob Marley arrived to headline the independence celebrations that would see Rhodesia become Zimbabwe, his song “Zimbabwe,” the centerpiece of the “Survival” album, was the most popular foreign song in the country. Marley, whose religion of Rastafarianism had long preached cultural and political resistance against white oppression in Africa, wanted to “build a blood-claat studio inna Africa, have hit after blood-claat hit”—so much so that he spent thousands of dollars flying lighting and sound equipment to Zimbabwe to create a concert atmosphere that would match that of Madison Square Garden.
In Zimbabwe, popular songs were central to the century-long fight to end the colonial system, and Marley’s claim that music was “the biggest gun because the oppressed cannot afford weapons” was nowhere more resonant. After Marley’s performance that night, when he shed tears watching the Rhodesian flag come down and Zimbabwe’s go up, the local musician Thomas Mapfumo took the stage. Mapfumo was a leading singer of chimurenga music, the music of struggle. Never mind that it was late, and that Prince Charles and all the other foreign dignitaries and top-ranking army officers—the nation’s new V.I.P.s—had left. The freedom fighters stayed behind, waving their guns. Peasants who had been locked out of the main event joined in dancing to the chimurenga music until the next morning.
I spoke with Professor Mickias Musiyiwa, of the University of Zimbabwe, who told me that chimurenga music continues to be “one platform that Zimbabweans always resort to whenever they want to express their grievances against their leaders and against Western imperialism.” The word comes from the name of Murenga, an early ancestor and warrior of the Shona people. In Zimbabwe’s liberation war, of the nineteen-sixties and seventies, the military wings of guerrillas based in Mozambique and Zambia set up choirs to sing chimurengasongs that derived from folk hymns and other folk songs. These hymns connected the living with the world of the ancestors and recorded the struggle for those to come. Revolutionaries played these songs at rallies held in urban areas and at all-night vigils called mapungwes, where guerrillas and peasants would come together to sing.
Songs like “Muka, Muka!” (“Wake Up, Wake Up!”) and “Tumira Vana Kuhondo” (“Mothers Send Your Children to War”) were sung to politicize and educate Zimbabweans about why the war for independence was being fought. “The song became the classroom, so to speak, just like in South Africa and in Kenya, through which people could access information of what was happening in different parts of the country,” Maurice Vambe, a professor of African literature at the University of South Africa, explained to me. The songs could also correct a historical narrative. Songs such as “Vakawuya Zimbabwe” (“They Came to Zimbabwe”) narrated the exploitation of Zimbabwe and sought to revive old stories about pre-colonial times. Much like reggae would seek to do, the music was making contemporary social commentary and preserving ancient cultural memory.
Although Thomas Mapfumo was not among the guerrillas in Mozambique and Zambia, his music championed the war for independence, leading to his detention and multiple arrests. His popularity as the leading chimurengamusician was fuelled by his band’s adaption of the mbira, a thumb piano that is central to Shona spiritual communication. By using a traditional instrument—particularly one with ties to ancestor worship—Mapfumo was signalling his participation in acultural revolution against colonial rule.
In the first half-decade after Zimbabwe won its independence, Mapfumo, like other chimurenga musicians, would sing songs like “Mabasa” (“Let’s Get Back to Work”), about the need for unity in order to build the new nation. But, as the eighties turned to the nineties, the tone of his music changed. In 1988, his song “Corruption” brought to the national airwaves the whispered frustrations heard in private offices, marketplaces, and homes about the unequal distribution of the nation’s wealth. The outcry wasn’t, as we might assume, for the former President Robert Mugabe and other leaders to step aside. “People were not really thinking about issues of succession,” Musiyiwa explained. Most citizens, having recently made personal sacrifices for the new nation, were instead demanding a redirection. “People now were beginning to say this is not what we fought for,” Musiyiwa said. “They lost their lives in order to build a society in which everyone benefits. In which services are provided.”
Mapfumo, who is now seventy-two, will return to his country later this month after ten years of self-imposed exile, in Oregon, as a persona non grata of the Mugabe regime. He once explained that “independence in Zimbabwe brought much-needed freedom but triggered other unexpected tribulations.” Chimurenga, he wrote, has shifted to focus on the “elimination of public office corruption while advocating for the citizen’s pursuit of peace, happiness, equality, dignity, comfort and the rule of law.” Music as a weapon in the hands of the people has been turned against the old revolutionaries. Mapfumo’s “Maiti Kurima Hamubvire” (“You Used to Say You Are Good Farmers”), to take one example, touches on the failure of the national government to make land reform work and lists its other broken promises. But the ruling class was not blind to the power of chimurenga. To counter the popular music, the government started holding galas during national holidays, in the early aughts. The goal, as a former minister of information and publicity told the state-owned daily newspaper the Herald, was for “a new form of Press statement” that “whipped people into common liberation thinking and kept them informed, educated and united.”
On Tuesday, November 21, 2017, when Robert Mugabe resigned from his position as President, onlookers on the streets of Harare cheered on a solitary young man in a red bucket hat, who played a song called “Kutonga Kwaro” on a trombone. Although the song was released just a week before the protests had started, it had been adopted as the unofficial anthem of the uprising. In the marches that saw the fall of Mugabe, and at the inauguration of his former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, “Kutonga Kwaro” was blaring from thousands of cars in the streets and on radios everywhere. The song talks about the coming of a familiar but long-awaited hero, a fearsome character before whom other men cringe, one who will change the rules, open the granary.
But is ‘Kutonga Kwaro’ true chimurenga music? The song was written by Jah Prayzah, who has spent most of his career as a brand ambassador of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces (Z.D.F.). Accordingly, the lyrics of his music extoll the military strongman, and he styles himself in military fatigues and apparel. It has been dangerous in the last decade to sing or produce chimurenga music that criticizes the state; Mapfumo and his family faced physical threats before fleeing the country. Prayzah’s music embodies the paradox of Zimbabwe’s revolution. The military affiliation has protected his right to free speech, to sing for a new day, but such protection is only necessary because of the rigid and censored society that the military has created.
Zimbabweans have had mixed reactions to the military’s involvement in the removal of Mugabe and the precedent that it sets. One prominent Zimbabwean blogger, who was derided for taking a picture with a soldier while standing next to an army tank, wrote about how big a deal it was to feel safe for once around the soldiers. Zimbabweans have been told for decades that they owe their liberation to these soldiers and the military, but the military had yet to show any concern for the will of the people until now. Mapfumo’s anti-Mugabe song “Masoja Nemapurisa” (“Father, If Soldiers and Police Refuse to Beat People, What Will You Do?”) feels prophetic. But, with the leadership connected to Mugabe still in charge, he concedes, “It’s still the old train that we’re riding but they’ve got a different driver.” Soldiers seizing power is nothing new, but the change in power, for a few weeks, suggested a return to the state of affairs that was interrupted by colonialism—a time and space when Africans have the greatest say in the use of their land and the formation of their culture. In that sense, what’s happening in Zimbabwe is another verse in the longer song of struggle, where the past is always present and the future available to be fought for.
*Source New Yorker