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Theatre artists arrested over Final Push play
Tafirei Shumba, ZimOnline
October 02, 2007

HARARE - A Zimbabwean journalist and two theatre artists were arrested in Harare at the weekend during the performance of a satirical play depicting the eight-year political crisis in the country.

The journalist, James Jemwa and actors Slyvanos Mudzvova and Anthony Tongani, were arrested during the performance of the play, The Final Push and were still being detained at Harare Central police station last night.

The title of the play is taken from Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)'s failed protest march organised in 2003 against President Robert Mugabe's government.

The protest failed after Mugabe sent armed soldiers onto the streets to crush the planned rebellion.

A police officer who refused to be named confirmed the arrest of the three but refused to disclose the charges being preferred against the artists.

"Yes they are here and so what do you want?" said the police officer as he slammed the phone when contacted by ZimOnline.

Daniel Maphosa, the play's technical director and producer, said the three were arrested at Theatre-In-The-Park, a prime theatre venue in central Harare.

Maphosa said plain-clothes police officers who were seated in the audience had watched the controversial play half-way through when they stormed the backstage where they dragged Mudzvova and Tongani to a police truck.

Jemwa who was filming the play, was also arrested when he went backstage to investigate what was going on, forcing scores of theatre lovers to storm out of the venue during the commotion.

"Lawyers are being engaged to assist the three and we have also alerted the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights for assistance.

"The arrest is a travesty of justice and an affront to freedom of expression. Our space for public debate and free expression is shrinking daily," said Maphosa.

Maphosa said the play, which was cleared by the state's Censorship Board, did not advocate the violent removal of Mugabe from power but urges dialogue between the veteran 83-year old Zimbabwean leader and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Zimbabwean police have over the past seven years arrested theatre artists and stopped plays they said were targeting Mugabe.

Zimbabwean musicians such as Thomas Mapfumo and Leonard Zhakata have also been banned from the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation for allegedly singing songs deemed critical of Mugabe.

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