African music star in exile in Oregon awaits real change for Zimbabwe

Musician Thomas Mapfumo watched the euphoria over the ouster of dictator Robert Mugabe from Mapfumo’s exile in the U.S. But he’s not rejoicing — Mugabe’s political party and his cronies still run the country.

EUGENE, Ore. — As Zimbabweans celebrated the ouster of dictator Robert Mugabe, they danced on the streets to previously banned protest songs by one of the country’s most famous musicians — a man jailed by the country’s former white rulers and hounded by the black government that succeeded them.

The musician, Thomas Mapfumo, watched the euphoria from exile in the U.S. But he’s not rejoicing — because Mugabe’s political party and his cronies still run the country.

“I think there’s nothing to celebrate about,” Mapfumo said this week in an interview with The Associated Press in Eugene, where he has lived since 2004. “It’s still the old train that we’re riding, but they’ve got a different driver now.”

When Mugabe resigned on Nov. 21 under military pressure, ending his iron-fisted rule of 37 years, Mapfumo’s songs blasted from car speakers to the crowds partying on the streets. For years, his music had been banned from public airwaves and was played in secret by Zimbabweans.

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With Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, still in power, there’s no sign Zimbabwe will overcome its long history of repression and political corruption, Mapfumo said. Former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, now the party head, was sworn in as president on Nov. 24. Nicknamed The Crocodile, he is accused of helping direct the slaughter of thousands of people in ethnic massacres in the 1980s.

“The root cause of our problems is ZANU-PF. There are still people who still believe in those bad policies,” Mapfumo said, citing in particular the takeover of white-owned farms — many of which went to Mugabe’s allies — that led to the collapse of Zimbabwe’s agricultural production.

Zimbabweans are electrified about the possibility of Mapfumo returning home to perform with his band, The Blacks Unlimited, for the first time since 2004, when he left the country with band members and relatives.

“I thought we will never see him play here again, but now I am very hopeful he will return home for a show of our lives,” said Shupai Muchingami, a fan in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital.

Mapfumo, known as the Lion of Zimbabwe, confirmed to AP that he wants to…

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