HARARE – Chimurenga music maestro Thomas Mapfumo on Tuesday took a dig at the change of guard at Munhumutapa Building, saying the ouster of former president Robert Mugabe and his replacement with President Emmerson Mnangagwa only ushered in “cosmetic changes”.
Popularly known as Mukanya, his totem, the Chimurenga music icon is in the country after more than a decade in self-imposed exile in the United States.
He is set to perform at the Glamis Stadium in Harare on Saturday, his first show since the fall of Mugabe last November.
In an interview on Tuesday, the musician was cautiously optimistic about the country’s future, saying its prospects were doomed without the youths playing a leading role in its affairs.
“This is not the change that people are looking for,” he said of the new dispensation that swept to power following a soft-coup by the military, which facilitated Mnangagwa’s dramatic ascendancy to power.
“The people want a good leader — a man who is not a thief, a man who does not steal from the people, a man of the people, a man who will stand for the people, a man who will stand for the poor,” thundered the outspoken musician.
Mapfumo, 72, said this was time for the youths to rise.
He said it was not possible for the current crop of politicians, who are in the twilight of their careers, to clean the mess they created in nearly four decades.
“These guys are now old and I urge you youngsters to rise and stand up. This is your future, this is your country and do not let them destroy it because then you will not have any country,” he said.
“Just unite as a people and rebuild the economy of the country, stand up and say ‘enough is enough’.”
He said if the transition was done in good faith, then the people’s will should prevail.
“If they did this for the people then they should make people forget about the past; they have to work for the people and make them think of a good future. They should promote the lives of the people of Zimbabwe.
“And there is a lot to be revisited; there are a lot of issues,” he said.
Mapfumo is disturbed by the poverty prevailing in the country as people have been turned into vendors.
“After 14 years away in the US, I come back to see people living in squalor, people are selling anything on the street and everywhere there are potholes. Amidst the poverty, you have others smartly dressed in suits and driving beautiful cars,” he said.
He called on Zimbabweans to unite and turn their swords into ploughshares.
“We are still one people, this country is beautiful but there are people who are destroying it,” said Mapfumo. “Where we are today, let’s put our heads together and build Zimbabwe, we have to love one another and unite,” he added.
Mukanya last visited his home country in 2001 when he staged a memorable concert at Boka Auction Floors, attended by over 8 000 music fans.
Also referred to as the “Lion of Zimbabwe”, Mapfumo championed the plight of rural masses during the 1970s by singing protest songs that included Hokoyo and Pfumvu Paruzeva which were banned by the colonial Ian Smith government.
In 1989, Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited released the album Corruption which criticised Mugabe’s authoritarian regime.
It was followed in the year 2000 by Chimurenga Explosion album comprising hard-hitting singles Mamvemve and Disaster, which were banned by State broadcaster ZBC.
He then lost five of his posh cars, which he said were confiscated by government on what he claimed were trumped-up charges of him having received stolen property.
After the banning of his music and this car incident, Mapfumo decided to take his family to the US where he chose to live in exile.
Mapfumo’s recent return to Zimbabwe has been welcomed by his music fans.
The dreadlocked singer said he would like to meet Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa among others.
“We want to meet Mnangagwa and Chamisa so we can tell them what we think they should do for the people. Actually, we want to meet everyone,” he said.
Mukanya recently dedicated his World Music Award to the people of Zimbabwe for their resilience over the years despite the difficulties they have been going through.
He also called on African leaders to fight for a united Africa with a single currency. “Africa is divided and this division has brought about poverty and corruption when actually the continent is one of the richest.
“In the West, they know that Africa is rich, hence they want us to remain divided. If we get united then these countries would come to us begging.
“I am advocating for one Africa, let there be no borders; one should easily be able to just cross into Zambia, Malawi or South Africa — wherever you want to go in Africa.”