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Taking on Mugabe

Razia Iqbal | 17:58 UK time, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

cont_blog-.jpgThere appears to be little to celebrate in Zimbabwe at the moment.

Political stalemate; economic collapse and now a deepening humanitarian crisis with reports of a cholera epidemic.

Today I spoke to a writer in Zimbabwe, whose story and spirit is heroic and deserves acknowledgement. His name is Cont Mhlanga and he has just become the first recipient of a prize called the ArtVenture Freedom to Create Prize, awarded by a philanthropic organisation funded by a private investment group in Singapore.

He has won $50,000. The money will no doubt be useful. His freedom to create has been curtailed many times in the last 30 years. As a playwright of political satires, Mr Mhlanga has been the target of state surveillance, intimidation, arrest and detention. His life is always in danger. None of this stops him from speaking out.

He said he wished the world would stop talking to Robert Mugabe. He wants the world to listen to the voices of the people, the people whose lives he writes about. He said he writes in the hope that "even one line I have written might give people the confidence to oppose and get rid of once and for all, the man who is responsible for this country's ills".

I asked him if he was worried for his safety by talking to the BBC? Without hesitation, he said: "You don't have to be scared for me. I use my pen to influence people to do the right thing."


  • Comment number 1.

    I think Africa should stop talking to Mugabe first !S Africa in particular ! It is almost as if the other states are frightend of him ! Most of these countries could not wait to see the back of European Colonial powers . And yet it is still thrown in their faces that somehow all the troubles in Africa stem from the days of colonisation. If the socalled democratic African states had the will and the guts ,they could topple Mugebe tomorrow. The last thing I want to see is British troops involved in Africa . We give enough in aid as it is , which seems to evaporate like the morning mist into the bank accounts of god knows who !The people of Zimbabwe should look to Africa for what is an African problem .

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree with Yakaridge. Only Africans can solve the problem. If they don't see it as a problem, then the rest of the world should not be involved.

    Mbeki should also be a mediator in the Congo, Sudan etc. He obviously has the support of African leaders.

    Finally, I think Mr. Mhlanga is very brave for his writing. Very few people are willing to sacrifice their safety for the freedom of expression.

  • Comment number 3.

    I also agree with yakaridge. We should be trading with Africa rather than sending hand-outs. The trouble is, this government and the corrupt eu quango block any meaningful trade, preferring as they do, to use aid as a way of perpetuating European interference in African affairs which has done so much damage throughout history.

    When are those in the west going to realise that African countries all have their own cultures, as do individual regions and tribes. The big mistake of many European countries is to believe African people should behave like Europeans. If Africa is left alone it will gradually get back to its own way of life. Yes it will take many many years but we should start right now.

  • Comment number 4.

    An African Problem? That is an interesting way to phrase it. The current situation in Zimbabwe is a desperate one. The reason no troops have been deployed there is because there is nothing to be gained for the "First World Countries".

    Enough aid has been given? So we have done our bit and can turn a blind eye, after all it doesn't really affect us, we are desensitised and far from the situation. It is not your brother or wife or child caught up in the Zimbabwean crisis.

    People are dying from cholera and starvation and that is OK because it does not affect us personally and we send some aid?

    Where has our compassion gone?

    Over the Christmas season people will spend millions of dollars on frivilous things that will be forgotten in a short space of time but on the other side of the coin children are being denied the basic essentials in life.

    I wonder if you had the fortune or misfortune of being born an "African in Africa" would your views be the same.......

    Mr Mhlanga is one of the many voices of Zimbabwe crying out for what every human desires - A BETTER LIFE.

    I hope and pray the situation changes but as demonstrated by the selfish attitudes around us I doubt it will.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks goodness, that someone is going to take on Robert Mugabe....


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