Howls of protest at Dennis Brutus concert
HARARE – A memorial concert for the late Zimbabwe-born South African poet, academic and social activist, Dennis Brutus, turned into a howl of protest against President Robert Mugabe’s social policies.
The event on January 29 was organised by Zimcodd, Magamba Cultural Activist Network and SAPSN at the Book Cafe included screening of a documentary on Brutus entitled ‘I am a rebel’, speakers, poets and musicians ‘to celebrate the life of a great global social justice activist’. Brutus died on December 26, 2009 in South Africa, marking the end of nearly half a decade of protest against various forms of oppression, from apartheid in South Africa to Mugabe’s tyranny in Zimbabwe, among other causes.
One of the speakers at the function, Jonah Gokova, attacked what he called the ‘pillars of capitalism’, including the World Bank and the IMF, traditional targets of Brutus in his later years.
“These institutions are creating increasing numbers of poor people in the world,” said Gokova, who met Brutus at several anti-capitalism protests around the world. “Capitalism is not an option.” Added Gokova, “Brutus shared those ideals that one day we would live in a just world in which profit should not determine how we should live.”
Readings from Brutus’s massive collection of poetry were followed by tributes and a performance by the ever-popular Comrade Fatso and Chabvondoka, whose protest song MaStreets got people on their feet. Brutus was born in Harare in 1924 but soon moved to Port Elizabeth with his family. He was shot and jailed by apartheid authorities for his activism, which resulted in South Africa being banned from the Olympics in 1972.
Brutus published more than a dozen volumes of poetry. Among his most evocative works are ‘Sirens Knuckles and Boots’ and ‘Letters to Martha’, an epic protest note which was smuggled out of prison disguised as a love letter.