Thomas Mapfumo rejects government’s olive branch, says the ruling party wants to ‘destroy’ his life


HARARE – Thomas "Mukanya" Mapfumo, the exiled Zimbabwean protest musician, has dismissed the government's peace overtures, stating that returning to his homeland would put his life at risk. This comes despite assurances from Nick Mangwana, the Permanent Secretary in the Information Publicity and Broadcasting Services Ministry, that the government bears no bad intentions towards the artist.

Thomas Mapfumo rejects government peace talks
Acerbic ... Thomas Mapfumo has rejected government's peace overtures.

Last week, Mangwana announced that Mapfumo, the revered Chimurenga maestro, was welcome to perform his "swan song" in Zimbabwe, insisting that the government harbors no ill intentions towards the legendary musician. 

This statement was made in spite of the longstanding strained relationship between Mapfumo and the Zimbabwean state, which has spanned over two decades and led to Mapfumo's self-imposed exile due to his vocal criticism of the government.

In 2022, Mapfumo was unable to return to Zimbabwe for his brother Lancelot's funeral, who had died of cancer in the United States, citing concerns for his safety in Zimbabwe.

"We have had conversations with Mr. Thomas Mapfumo's handlers, including Mukanya himself on the phone," Mangwana revealed last week. "He wants to hold his swan song in Zimbabwe, but he is scared that he will be arrested. For what? Nobody is interested in him."

Mangwana further stated that President Emmerson Mnangagwa, at the dawn of the second republic, did not declare any Zimbabwean a persona non grata. He emphasized the government's commitment to upholding every Zimbabwean's right to return home, even during Covid-19 lockdowns.

"We are a democratic State and we don't arrest people for free speech that doesn't break our laws," Mangwana said. "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."

However, Mapfumo, who has relentlessly criticized Mnangagwa's regime which came to power through a military-assisted coup, said that he takes government's invitation with a pinch of salt; expressing how he is not letting his guard down. 

The Zimbabwe Mozambique hitmaker expressed skepticism towards Mangwana’s remarks, stating from his base in the US, "I’m not safe to be back in Zimbabwe, they have tried to destroy my life and my family. They have failed to do so."

"They have failed to do so. I don’t love money and if I wanted to be wealthy through notorious ways I would have because I was once with these people (Zanu PF), I was detained by the Rhodesian government for supporting these people who were at war.

"I was sent into Chikurubi, and if I continued praising them I would be rich now yet the people suffer and that is not what I stand for.

"I once came back, but this is a different situation now, by then they didn’t pose any danger to my life but now they don’t care; now they don’t care.”

Mapfumo added that it's up to the citizens to take action against the current regime. "The ruling party has tried and failed, there is nothing that will change now," he said.

Mapfumo, who was imprisoned without charges by the white-dominated Rhodesian regime before independence, has been a staunch critic of the successive Mugabe regime. 

After enduring persecution from the Mugabe government, he lived in exile in the United States for two decades. 

He returned to Zimbabwe in April 2018 for the first time since 2005 to perform a series of concerts.

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