Criticizing the Government -- Indirectly

Alice Dadirai Kwaramba, M. Phil.

Muromo chinyarara, meso anoona (I had better shut my mouth and just watch) -- This statement indicates an awareness of the government's intolerance of criticism. However, the fact that Mapfumo acknowledges the absence of freedom of expression, is itself potential criticism and protest against this state of affairs. This indirect way of criticism is also employed in a later song 'Maiti Kurima Hamubvire' (You Once Boasted That You Were The Best Of Farmers) (1993), where Mapfumo says that:

Chimbo changu chimbo chenhamo
My song is about poverty and problems

Chinoimbwa ndakaminama
I therefore have to sing it through disguise

apparently suggesting that in the songs it is the poverty that has to be disguised and not the agents who have caused it. It is as if misery is causing the people to suffer, when in fact it is the failure of the government which is the cause of the misery in the first place. This is not said explicitly but left to be inferred from the context. This way Mapfumo avoids direct opposition to government. This concealment of agency in the texts can be understood as a comment on the power relationship that existed between the leaders, the musicians and in turn 'the people'. There is no more that freedom of expression that characterised the songs at independence, hence Mapfumo has to disguise his message about the suffering, which is echoed further in the same song when he says:

Tozvireva takamirepi?
How can we say it without being victimised?

Despite the innuendo Mapfumo vaguely hints at the action likely to be taken by the people in the last verse seven, in the song text 'Hurukuro' (Topic of Discussion):

Nhamo yakadai inofungisa zvakaoma vakomana
Such misery makes one think deeply

Nhamo yakadai inochemedza zvakaoma vakomana
Such misery makes one weep bitterly

Nhamo yakadai inosvikisa pakaoma vasikana
Such misery leads to extreme heartaches

Nhamo yakadai inofungisa kuzvisunga vakomana
Such misery makes one feel suicidal.

The action is expressed through idiomatic expressions which are ambiguous and can therefore be interpreted in more than one way. All he hints at is that the misery makes one 'think deeply, makes one weep bitterly, leads to drastic measures and makes one suicidal'. The statements do not openly advocate for any form of action to change the system. There is no hint as to what the action is likely to be. It could be anything ranging from acceptance to going back to the bush to fight. However, this seems to be deliberately left to speculation and is not declared overtly. This way Mapfumo avoids direct confrontation with the government, by just stating the problems arising from misrule, instead of openly challenging the government to account for its actions or lack of them.

[from Alice Dadirai Kwaramba, Popular Music and Society: The Language of Chiumurenga Music: The Case of Thomas Mapfumo in Zimbabwe. Oslo: University of Oslo, 1997, pages 37-38. Available from Department of Media and Communications [].

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