Mugabe's daughter, priest, appointed to censorship board

Harare - President Robert Mugabe’s only daughter Bona has been appointed to the country’s Censorship Board, which determines which parts of steamy films the people of Zimbabwe can watch and which they can’t.

To help her in this task is Mugabe’s longstanding friend and confidante, Father Fidelis Mukonori, who is a Roman Catholic priest, and former education minister Aeneas Chigwedere, who was sued by his son two years ago for allegedly practising witchcraft and “possessing goblins”.

Another well-known name on the board is Charity Charamba, the police spokesperson.

Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo said while Zimbabwe’s constitution guaranteed freedom of expression, the Censorship Act gave powers to the board “to ensure that these freedoms are reasonably limited so that they do not infringe on other people’s rights”.

“In today’s environment where there is heightened scrutiny by members of the public, internet and social media use, you are going to be faced by many challenges in administering the act,” Chombo said, in quotes carried by the official Herald.

The new board will hold office for five years. Chigwedere, the new chairperson, will replace Heyi Malaba who is 96. Malaba’s board famously demanded heavy editing of Fifty Shades of Grey, the movie based on the EL James novel. Some movie theatres refused to screen the edited version.

Zimbabwe’s pole dancers, known for their risqué performances, are also monitored by the board. Probably the most famous of them, Bev Sibanda, was fined $100 three years ago for breaching the Censorship Act after photos of one dance session were deemed by the censorship board to be “indecent”.

But with elections a year way, there will be fears that the new-look Censorship Board will also be used to clamp down on Zimbabwe’s vibrant social media, which doesn’t spare Mugabe and his government from robust criticism.

A report by the state broadcaster, the ZBC, gave a hint of that when it said: “The new board of censors… will have a mammoth task in carrying out its mandate as there has been rampant abuse of social media while also taking into consideration that general elections are set for next year.”