June 26, 2008

Mr. Cde Aeneas Chigwedere
Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture
Head Office, Union Avenue
P. O. Box CY 121
Causeway, Harare
Fax: 26-347-4075

Ambassador Machivenyika Mapuranga
Embassy of Zimbabwe
1608 New Hampshire Ave
Washington, DC 20009
Fax: (202) 483-9326

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest attacks against the cast and crew of the satirical play The Crocodile of Zambezi, and its banning by the police in Bulawayo.

According to our information, on May 29, 2008, police officers came to the City Hall in Bulawayo, where rehearsals for the second performance of The Crocodile of Zambezi were under way. Production manager Lionel Nkosi and actor Aleck Zulu were taken to the central police station and told that the play could not continue. Mr. Nkosi and Mr. Zulu agreed to stop the show, returned to City Hall, and packed up. When Mr. Nkosi and Mr. Zulu were about to leave, they were stopped by four men in an unmarked car outside. Mr. Nkosi was asked to get in and was driven to an isolated location where four men beat him severely and threatened to kill him. The attack left Mr. Nkosi covered in blood and with a fractured ankle, bruised ribs and gums, and a loose tooth. According to some reports, Mr. Nkosi’s assailants were members of the secret service.

The Crocodile of Zambezi, set in a fictional country along the Zambezi River, is a satire on the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe and is the result of a two-year collaboration between playwrights Raisedon Baya and Chrisopher Mlalazi. The play’s central character is the country’s aging leader who faces personal and political crises. The play opened on May 28 despite the fact that paid newspaper advertisements were not printed. The play was reportedly well-received, but due to the ban, it closed after only one performance.

PEN American Center believes the attacks on the cast and crew and the banning of The Crocodile of Zambezi to be in direct violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which Zimbabwe has signed. We therefore respectfully call for the authorities to respect their right to freedom of expression and to cease all attacks against them. 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                 
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in Africa
Commissioner Faith Pansy Tlakula
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
48 Kairaba Avenue, P.O.Box 673
Banjul, Gambia
Fax: 220 439076

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