Exiled musician returns to Zimbabwe, post-Mugabe

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s been 14 years since Thomas Mapfumo worked up a crowd like this in his home-country. He was forced to flee Zimbabwe after years of using music to call for freedom. First, from colonial white rule when Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia and later from former President Robert Mugabe.

“The government was against me, they saw me as an enemy of the state. Well, I did not fear for my life, all I wanted was my children to be safe, my family and also to carry on with my music.”

His fans call him the “Lion of Zimbabwe”. Mapfumo is also considered the father of a genre known simply as “liberation music.” It was banned and he was arrested in 1979 for supporting the revolution against the white government,but was released three months later after protests from supporters.

But when independence came and Mugabe took power, Mapfumo became disillusioned again with the new authoritarian leader. He fled to the United States with his family fearing for his life, after making songs criticizing the new order. Now, Mugabe’s gone and Mapfumo’s first homecoming show sold out.

However, he still thinks the country has a long road to recovery, “I came back because I thought there was a little change in this country when anyway these are the same people who took over from the former President Robert Mugabe, these are his same people, they used to work with Robert Mugabe… We would like to see…. there is a little change of course, but our people would like to see the real change, the real change is not there. Our people are still living in squalor.”