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Police embarrass minister over play

by Loughty Dube

THE police on Friday evening gave the Minister of Information and Publicity Sikhanyiso Ndlovu a taste of his own government’s repressive laws after they cancelled the pre

miere of a play where he was supposed to have been the guest of honour.

Ndlovu was invited to the launch of the controversial play Overthrown and was supposed to address the audience before the premiere of the play but failed to officiate after police cancelled the activities for the evening.

Ndlovu was also expected to meet the actors backstage but by the time he arrived at the venue of the play police had already dispersed people who had come to watch.

Police who arrived at Amakhosi before Ndlovu’s arrival had told organisers of the event that they should have sought permission from the authorities to stage the play under the Public Order and Security Act (Posa).

Overthrown was written by Stanley Makuwe and directed by Cont Mhlanga.

The play is about the economic and political situation affecting the country and kicks off with corpses in a mortuary that complain about the delays in their burials.

The corpses blame the president for all their problems and decide if the living are failing to deal with him then they will assassinate him.

The corpses march to State House and manage to assassinate the president.

Mhlanga said police had cleared them to go ahead with the play and was shocked to be told on Friday evening that the play would not go ahead.

Mhlanga said police from the Law and Order section had attended rehearsals of the play the entire week and had said they had no problem with the contents.

“It is surprising that the police on Friday evening came with a changed story because we were cleared by police on Monday and even during the rehearsals we had senior police officers who watched the rehearsals of the play and they had indicated that the play could go ahead as there was nothing offensive about the play,” Mhlanga said.

He said the police however later on apologised and alleged there was a communication breakdown among themselves over the cancellation of the show.

“The police later said the play was meant to go ahead and they said there was a communication breakdown among themselves, so we have to look at another date for staging the show,” Mhlanga said.

When contacted for comment on why the police cancelled the show Ndlovu said police had informed him that a section of the crowd at the venue was becoming riotous and for security reasons the police said they had to cancel the show.

“The police told me that there was a problem with a section of the crowd so they had to cancel the play for security reasons but the organisers have understood that and they have told me that that they will reschedule the play because as government we accept criticism as long as it is constructive we do not block people from expressing themselves,” he said.

Overthrown becomes the third theatre production to be blocked in Bulawayo after police stopped the premiere of The Good President in June this year and Everyday Soldiers produced by Mhlanga and Raisedon Baya respectively .

The play however is expected to go ahead this week on Saturday after police apologised to Ndlovu and said there was a communication breakdown over the matter.

But Mhlanga in his weekly e-mail communications said the decision by the police had left the minister embarrassed.

“The police moved in at Amakhosi Theatre to close down the play Overthrown by Stanley Makuwe at 6.30 in the evening leaving the Minister of Information Sikhanyiso Ndlovu embarrassed. He arrived at 7.15pm to find that his audience and the artists that he had come to engage with had been dispersed by Officer Mabhunu of Mzilikazi Police station.”

According to Mhlanga, in his own words Mabhunu said: “Mhlanga I was sent by my bosses that I should come and tell you that the play must not play.”

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