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Zimbabwean Playwright Gets Involved in Local Politics


In Zimbabwe, renowned playwright Cont Mhlanga, is extending his repertoire… to include politics. He's contesting the upcoming polls in the hopes of becoming a rural councilor in the province of Matabeleland North. Mhlanga says he's going into politics to help villagers in the district of Lupane put a stop to corruption, while also livening up his productions. Netsai Mlilo has the story...

In politics, Cont Mdladla Mhlanga is proving to be just as controversial as his plays. Mhlanga, who's seeking the right to represent villagers of Lupane Rural District's ward 15 in council, says he won't be joining other independent candidates in their support of presidential candidate Simba Makoni, who was formerly a finance minister for the ruling ZANU PF party.

"No," he says, "I am not with an independent party because no-one has approached me. I don't know what to join."

Instead, Mhlanga says he's going it alone. He's confident he'll win…

"No. I don't have a party. I'm a playwright. Previously, I was a political artist -- an artist focusing on political issues, but now I have just swapped that. Instead of being a political artist, I have become a politician who is an artist. "

He believes entering politics is the right move… not just for him, but for Lupane's development.

Mhlanga, who's branded himself Lupane's "opportunities champion'" says he hopes to help develop the district by getting villagers to hold government to account...

"I think I choose the right thing," he says, "You know I'm so excited I chose to go back to the people, work with them at a council level, local level then I can see where the gaps are and the biggest gap is information. They actually have no clue in terms of what's happening. They have no clue how to correct it."

Mhlanga argues most 'sharp minds' (as he puts it) rush to Parliament and Senate, leaving corrupt officials to run local governments. As an example, he cites the fact that several schools in Lupane have no doors despite the district producing a lot of timber. He says, as politician, he'll have the mandate of the people to question and demand answers.

"I'm saying to people when I campaign all I'm bringing here is wisdom, information to help you people ask the right questions and don't stop if you don't get the right answers from the right person."

Mhlanga, who's had several of his productions banned for criticizing the government, says if he has the backing of the people it will be impossible for the state to silence him.

He says he believes being an artist, as well as a politician, will enable him to produce "real drama" probing the nation's conscience.

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