Fighting for justice and freedom through music: The case of Thomas Mapfumo, Hosiah Chipanga and Leonard Zhakata, ca. 1988–2015
The pervasive contention in scholarship on contemporary Zimbabwe is that the quintessence of the post-independence Zimbabwean experience consists in unchecked political dictatorship and unprecedented economic regression. This contention derives from the fact that with the advent of independence in 1980, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) regime that replaced the Rhodesia Front (RF) in the corridors of power embarked on a campaign to achieve political hegemony through the entrenchment of patronage, violence and corruption. However, this is not all that there is to the post-independence Zimbabwean narrative. As this article makes clear, the post-independence Zimbabwean experience also speaks to a pro-democracy struggle in which the authors of the Zimbabwean debacle are confronted on various platforms, particularly the protest songs of musicians such as Thomas Mapfumo, Hosiah Chipanga and Leonard Zhakata. Since the late 1980s, these musicians have been relentless in their criticism of the ZANU-PF establishment, its strong-arm tactics and self-image as the indispensable guardian of Zimbabwean interests. This article maintains that through euphemism, ridicule and overt criticism, Mapfumo, Chipanga and Zhakata forge an aesthetic of resistance that exposes and contests the institutionalisation of patronage, violence and corruption in post-independence Zimbabwe.