Thomas Mapfumo free to come back home, Zimbabwe's government says


HARARE – The Zimbabwean government has extended an open invitation to United States-based Chimurenga music icon, Thomas "Mukanya" Mapfumo, to perform in his homeland. This assurance comes in response to Mapfumo's expressed fears of arrest should he return to Zimbabwe.

Thomas Mapfumo free to come back home
Image: AFP/Getty Images

Government spokesperson, Ndavaningi "Nick" Mangwana, took to social media to address Mapfumo's concerns directly. 

"We have had conversations with Mr. Thomas Mapfumo’s handlers, including Mukanya himself on the phone," Mangwana posted. 

"He wants to hold his swan song in Zimbabwe but he is scared that he will be arrested. For what?"

Mangwana further clarified that the government harbors no ill will towards Mapfumo. "Nobody is interested in him," he added. 

"At the culmination of the Second Republic, President ED did not declare a single Zimbabwean a persona non grata (PNG). On the contrary, he asserted every Zimbabwean’s cardinal right to come home (including during COVID-19 lockdowns)."

Mapfumo, born in 1945 in Marondera, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), is a celebrated musician and composer. 

He played a significant role in Zimbabwe's journey to independence in the 1970s through his politically charged Chimurenga music. 

His work with the traditional mbira instrument has also introduced Western audiences to Zimbabwean music.

Despite his contributions to the music scene, Mapfumo has been a vocal critic of the ZANU PF government, leading to his self-imposed exile during former President Robert Mugabe’s tenure. 

He relocated to the United States in 2000, settling in Oregon, due to ongoing political tensions.

Mapfumo continues to critique the current administration under President Emmerson Mnangagwa for its human rights record and governance. 

His last performance in Zimbabwe was in April 2018 at the 'Homecoming Bira,' a few months after Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe.

Mangwana concluded his post with a message of goodwill towards the soon-to-be octogenarian. 

"Mr. Mapfumo is a soon-to-be octogenarian, and we wish him well in his remaining years. He has a lot of fans and detractors. That’s life. See you in Zimbabwe Mukanya."

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