News Brief

Prominent Zimbabwean Activist Sheds Light on Current Crisis

Doug Coltart, a vocal activist and human rights lawyer based in Harare, speaks to Okayafrica about what's currently happening in Zimbabwe.

A few days ago, the Zimbabwean government issued a directive to major cellular network providers Econet and TelOne to disable the internet and all access to social media. The directive was an attempt to prevent any information from spreading outside the country's borders with regards to the nationwide protests which have led to the deaths of at least five people and the injury of at least twenty-five others.


Okayafrica spoke to prominent Zimbabwean activist and human rights lawyer Doug Coltart who is currently based in Harare, the capital city, about the status of the nationwide protests which have now entered into their fourth day. Several Zimbabweans have been killed and numerous others wounded in what has turned into a deadly showdown between frustrated citizens and armed forces. The 2016 #ThisFlag movement leader Evan Mawarire was arrested and is still being detained. Yesterday, Zimbabwe's opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) made a plea for South Africa to intervene in the escalating crisis.

Coltart speaks of the horrific brutality being unleashed by Zimbabwean soldiers and police, tales of Zimbabwean citizens who have been dragged from their homes and arrested whilst President Emmerson Mnangagwa has still not released any official statement.

Doug, can you just give us an overview of what's currently happening right now?

Sure. So for the past few days there has been a national shutdown or stay-away called for by the CPU, which is the largest trade union in Zimbabwe. People stayed away to protest against the deteriorating economic situation in the country. Some people did go out into the streets and demonstrated as well.

In response to this, there has been brutality that we haven't seen in past decades. There's been a total internet shut down for several days. We now have partial internet, but social media is still being shut down by the state. The state is denying that they shut the internet down while the service providers are saying that they were compelled to shut down the internet by the state. Under the cover of this internet blackout, the military has been going from door-to-door bashing down people's doors, dragging them out of their homes and beating them in the streets. People have been shot in the street.

Hundreds of people are currently in police custody and there seems to be a real military operation going on throughout the country. Last night, I was out in a small village called Goromonzi about 50 kms from Harare and at that police station, the military literally came in and took control of the police station. They started manning the booth of the police station and there were about about 20 soldiers. Some in uniform, others in plain clothes and some wearing balaclavas and carrying rifles. They literally took over the operations of the entire police station in what seemed to be an attempted abduction of my clients, some teachers who'd been arrested. Fortunately, we managed to get the teachers into the custody of the police and in police cells and they were safe. We're now back in Goromonzi. It is a very serious state crackdown on all forms of dissent at the moment.

And Doug, the military and the soldiers that you're speaking of, these are the same soldiers with whom just a few months back, Zimbabwean citizens were marching down the streets in celebration after the removal of Robert Mugabe, correct?

Yes, absolutely. That march was the 18th of November, 2017. People came out to celebrate the end of the Mugabe-era and we thought that it might bring about something new. Of course at that stage, which was right in the middle of the military coup, no one knew what the outcome would be: whether Zanu-PF would retain power or there would be some sort of transitional arrangement to cure the coup and usher in a new democratic dispensation. Unfortunately, it's been the former. Zanu-PF, and particularly the military, have entrenched themselves and this regime is proving to be just as brutal, if not more brutal than that of Mugabe and equally, if not more, incompetent at resolving the economic crisis.

Has there been any word from President Emmerson Mnangagwa on the current nationwide protests that are happening?

Not that I am aware of. Of course, we've had an internet shutdown, so information sharing has been quite difficult on our side.

Of course.

However, there have been a number of statements by the government, essentially blaming all of the violence that occurred on the main opposition party, the MDC alliance, even though the shutdown was not called for by the MDC alliance. Of course, bearing in mind that number one, those who did call for the shutdown urged people to remain peaceful and number two, while there has been some regrettable violence from protesters, the vast majority of the violence has been meted out by soldiers and police officers killing and beating people.

Listen to the short interview below.



Some of the commentary provided by Coltart on his Twitter page.




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Photo Credit: Screengrab from Chief Daddy 2: Going for Broke

How This Netflix Film Sparked A Fierc​e Conversation About Nollywood

Since its release on Netflix, Chief Daddy 2: Going for Broke has received a scathing reaction from critics and users on social media. The movie sparked all kinds of conversation about the future of Nollywood films.

On the first day of January, Netflix released Chief Daddy 2: Going for Broke, the sequel to the 2018 dramedy about the gilded household of Chief Beecroft (whose death leaves members of his family scrambling over his wealth.) Even with its many flaws, the original was a major hit, making N385.7 million at the Nigerian box office. So it wasn't surprising Netflix acquired the second installment.

However, reviews have been overwhelmingly negative. The tone was even more unforgivingly scathing on social media, where criticism was rampant. On Twitter, fans savaged the editing, acting, and thin plot. One of the viewers who shared their disappointment with the film was Joyce Alao, who expressed her sentiments on Twitter from a burner account.

“It was a pointless film and I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” Alao told OkayAfrica. “ I was speechless from scene to scene, looking for something or anything redeemable but couldn’t find it. My main issue is why this film is on Netflix?"

Alao said the online outrage was nothing like she had seen before. Nigerians were uniting to not just criticize a film but to demand better from the Nollywood industry. And the pushback became so fierce it dominated coverage around the film. “It was an interesting moment and I hope this trend continues," Alao said. "We can’t continue to accept everything from these filmmakers.”

The criticisms of Chief Daddy 2 was a Nollywood viral moment. Oba Kosi Nwoba, a producer-director known for projects like Umoja and Iko Ndu: The Palmwine Story, hosted a room on Twitter Spaces titled Nollywood: Enough is Enough! #WeWantNewNollywood.

“A lot of people on social media who I believe represent a significant percentage of Netflix users have come out to complain they didn’t like the story. That is something to take home,” Nwoba said. “People make films for different purposes, there’s always that arm aimed at commercial viability. Is it commercial success? We can’t tell yet. If it was released in the cinema, the numbers would say. I share a little sentiment with the audience with regards to the cohesiveness of the story. Let us call it a failed experiment.”

Nwoba has a vantage position as a filmmaker, but he holds himself to the unspoken cardinal rule of not critiquing another filmmaker’s work. At the same time, he feels these conversations are vital to have. The problems with Chief Daddy 2 aren’t new, even for a production from EbonyLife Films, a huge studio. The problems aren’t isolated, either. So why did it take this film to see that the industry was in crisis?

“First, I don’t think it took Chief Daddy for people to come to the realization,” Precious Nwogu, a film journalist for Pulse, said. “Its timing, however, played a crucial role in the collective backlash it received. Prior to the call out, there have been pockets of negative reviews of titles released on the streamer but this time, the holidays plus maybe high expectations from EbonyLife following the countless announcements of international deals fueled the collective criticism.”

One glaring issue with mainstream Nollywood movies is how they look the same, a formulaic recipe involving many popular actors, affluent suburbs, and drone footage of landmarks. It’s a production of empty calories. And since officially entering the Nigerian market, Netflix hasn’t left any tangible impact on filmmaking appetites. The desire to be “marketable” is strong as ever, and the streamer has only strengthened the impulse.

“Yes and no,” Nwogu said, on whether Netflix can be held accountable. “These guys are just business owners that ultimately seek to make profit. Their initial hosts sold them the narrative that box office figures reflected what the Nigerian audience wanted.”

“Where I can fault Netflix is not in licensing but in commissioning. It makes no sense recycling filmmakers and commissioning multi-year deals... Why not commission one or two, see how that goes then do the work of seeking out other talent heads in the industry?"

In a video, Mo Abudu, the CEO of EbonyLife Group, publicly acknowledged the backlash the film received. Furthermore, she promised corrections will be made in the future. (The film’s director, Niyi Akinmolayan hasn’t made any public statement.) While there’s some sincerity in Abudu’s apology, she diplomatically positioned the idea that Chief Daddy 2 had mixed reviews. She didn’t state the actual flaws of the film, which honestly would have been a self-flagellating exercise on her part. But the implication of stating the flaws would have been profound, an indictment of how other Nollywood pictures have been made.

In addition, actionable steps weren’t indicated, which suggests things will be done on her studio’s terms and shouldn’t warrant public pressure or micromanagement. In this state of affairs, what’s stopping the next random Nollywood film on Netflix from being like Chief Daddy 2?

“Nollywood needs a lot of money,” Nwoba said. “I don’t mean the survival money — the type you don’t count, you only weigh. Nollywood, since inception, has been a self-sustaining industry. Between 2011-2017, the federal government brought a meager sum... to support the industry. We can tell that it barely did anything, if not we most likely won’t be talking about the industry being this poor.”

Nwoba sees the industry as moving parts that need to function properly, from production to distribution and management. All these require financial support. Film funding is intentional business. Funding through film journalism, film schools, festivals, community cinemas, actual brick and mortar structures, and strengthening guilds could have serious impact on Nollywood. This doesn’t mean bad movies would disappear.

“It simply means that we won’t keep making a specific genre of movie because of its commercial viability,” Nwoba said. “Filmmakers will be more willing to take risks and explore the taste of the audience.”

Photo: Sundance Film Festival

South African Director Oliver Hermanus on Remaking a Classic

The award-winning director behind Skoonheid and Moffie tackles his first film set outside his home country -- a reworking of auteur Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru -- which is premiering at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

In Living, Oliver Hermanus’ latest film, Bill Nighy takes on the role Takashi Shimura earned a BAFTA nomination for playing in the 1952 classic, Ikiru. Except Nighy's not Mr Watanabe, he’s Mr Williams, a British version of Shimura’s workaholic who finds out he only has a short time left to live. Revered auteur Akira Kurosawa’s film made its premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1954, where it would go on to win him a special prize of the senate of Berlin, before garnering acclaim for many more years to come. So, too, is Hermanus' remaking of the story bowing at a film festival, and so far, it's also been earning the South African director high praise.

Born in Cape Town, Hermanus has steadily built his career on South African-centric stories. Whether it’s the portrait of a Mitchell’s Plain mother caught between poverty and violence in Shirley Adams or the experience of gay recruits conscripted into the army in Moffie, Hermanus’ films speak to various realms of South African life. Living is his first venture outside of South Africa – not just in storyline, but in cast and crew too. The screenplay is by Nobel and Booker Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of The Day) and Hermanus was brought on as director by the producers.

From debuting his first film Shirley Adams in 2009 in competition at the 62nd Locarno Film Festival, followed by Skoonheid (Beauty) at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, and The Endless River at the 72nd Venice Film Festival, where it was the first South African film to be invited to the main competition, to his fourth feature, Moffie at the 76th Venice Film Festival in 2019, Hermanus has cemented his reputation as a filmmaker to watch.

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Photo by Ahmet Emin Donmez/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

AFCON Stampede Leaves 8 Dead, 40+ Injured In Cameroonian Stadium

The unfortunate event took place Monday, ahead of the host country Cameroon's match against Comoros.

At least six people have died after a stampede broke out outside of Olembe Stadium in Cameroon's capital, Yaounde. The stampede erupted ahead of the host country's match against East African islanders Comoros, during this year's African Cup of Nations competition. Forty more were injured, while Naseri Paul Biya -- governor of the central region of Cameroon -- said there could be more casualties announced as the night progresses. “We are not in a position to give you the total number of casualties,” he said.

The violent event took place at the same stadium which hosted the tournament's opening ceremony, on January 9. The 60,000 capacity stadium was built while the host country got ready for the delayed tournament, and saw fans get crushed as they tried to make their way into the stadium. Several eye-witnesses have claimed that the disturbance took place at the stadium's entrance. Reports of injured children being crushed during the incident were also reported.

Despite the ruckus, the match went on. Minnows Comoros is ranked 132nd in the world and was diluted down to ten men... seven minutes into the game. Midfielder Najdim Abdou being dismissed during the opening exchanges for stomping on the back of Cameroon's Moumi Ngamaleu's ankle definitely didn't set the game off to an optimistic start.

Meanwhile, officials at the Messassi hospital close to the stadium said that they had received at least 40 injured people at their health center alone. Said officials spoke of their hospital being incapable of treating all of the wounded who were rushed in by police and civilians.

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