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Mugabe continues to ignite debates from Grab-Newsday Zimbabwe

Hakeem Kae Kazim, Caroline Mashingaidze Zimbizi

It’s been a little over three years since the death of former President Robert Mugabe, but the once combative leader continues to make waves from the grave.

Just as he attracted attention during his lifetime, Mugabe has also been in the spotlight posthumously. The recently premiered film titled Mugabe, which chronicles Mugabe’s rise and fall, continues to spark a debate that evokes mixed feelings among film enthusiasts.

Produced by Eastgate Films, the film has a market value of $30 million, according to sources close to the production team.

Set in an African country, Zimbabwe, the synopsis of the film Mugabe chronicles how former President Mugabe rose from prison to power as a guerrilla fighter who defeated British colonial rule during the liberation struggle.

In the film, Mugabe is hailed as a “hero” and a multi-award winning global role model, but gradually becomes one of the world’s greatest tyrants, violating human rights to enjoy unassailable power for the rest of his life.

He holds on to power with an iron fist while eliminating potential successors to smooth the way for his young, beautiful wife. This first lady is a fiery woman who rebukes anyone who threatens to take her husband’s position.

Their association with high-profile churches, charity work, and extravagant lifestyles make them famous and culminate in their downfall. Will his people accept a family dynasty? With the nation in a state of turmoil and growing weary, Mugabe’s allies are doing the unexpected.

Ahead of its official premiere two weeks ago at Ster Kinekor Auditorium, the quartet of Edwin Mabhero, Cliff Marufu, Blessing Nhamo and Gilson Ngirandi were arrested in the capital on charges of pirating the film.

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They later appeared in Harare Magistrates Court, charged with violating copyright law.

In response to the film on various digital spaces such as Twitter and Facebook, some have labeled it as an underdone production.

The choice of renowned Nigerian Hollywood actor Hakeem Kae-Kazim as Mugabe in the film also caused a storm among local filmmakers and social media users, who believe the actor isn’t the best character for the role.

The actors said a local actor like Tongayi Arnold Chirisa or Tendai Maduwa could have played the role better.

Questions were asked about eloquence, accent and proficiency in English tantamount to Mugabe, which are glaringly absent from the film.

“We needed someone who could do justice to that character as a Nigerian struggling to speak with British and Shona accents like we do. I’ve played it once and I know I can do it,” Maduwa noted.

However, local actor Ngoni Vere said he saw no problem in using Kae-Kazim as nobody would fit in Mugabe’s shoes.

“He would be difficult for anyone to portray, especially an audience that grew up listening to his voice and watched him almost every day.

“But to an audience that thinks all Africans sound the same, that probably doesn’t matter,” he said.

For the film producers, Kazim was probably destined to sell the film given its international reputation.

The film’s cast included local actress Caroline Mashingaidze-Zimbizi, who starred as Grace Mugabe, wife of the late once-feared leader who died in Singapore in 2019.

“He (Rogers Ofime, a Nigerian-born, Canada-based filmmaker and producer on the film) took a chance, but it’s a shame it was an underrated job. Would he have done the same for a Baba Ngida film or an Obasanjo film? Hiring someone with a South African accent to play an Obasanjo character without any vocal training? Collius asked Chiruka.

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“Well, your answer is as good as mine. It’s a big no… Mugabe was a larger than life character… it doesn’t matter if the idea was to highlight the good or bad side of Mugabe, but the execution was flattered to deceive.”

Phyllis Katandika Chikwangwani: “It was a good film, mostly because it was for Zimbabweans by Zimbabweans. An original production, it’s amazing coming from across the oceans, I personally loved it.

“The film is well made and a good story for our children,” remarked Phillipa Dambanewunga.

Follow Winstone on Twitter @widzonato

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