By Justice Zhou.
Johannesburg. (News Of The South) – A prominent Zimbabwean arts activist has been named one of Africa’s top sixty emerging leaders who fight for democracy on the continent.
Samm Monro, otherwise known as Comrade Fatso, revealed yesterday he was nominated by the World Movement for Democracy, a US-based non-governmental lobby group.
This will see him travel to Dakar, Senegal, this week to take part in a high-level democracy conference bringing together young activists from around Africa.
The Youth Leadership and Democratic Transitions in Africa regional meeting will be held on March 12-14, 2015.
In an interview with News of the South, the multi-talented comedian and poet could not hide his delight at being honoured.
“It’s great to be recognised for pro-democracy activism,” said Monro, the director of Zimbabwean cultural activism organisation Magamba Network.
“I look forward to meeting inspirational activists from across the continent. At Magamba Network we pioneer creative forms of activism to reach young people.”
The conference will feature plenary sessions and workshops focusing on the roles of civil and political societies in building democracy, according to the organisers.
It comes as the onslaught on pro-democracy campaigners by Zimbabwean authorities has been on the rise in recent months.
A lack of tolerance for criticism was rife among some politicians, which means Zimbabwe has a long way to go before gaining a real participatory democracy, he noted.
He said: “We live in a country where we fear expressing our political opinion. I’ve been alongside young people struggling for a better Zimbabwe for years.”
“I’m inspired though by the new generation who believe in a free and democratic Zimbabwe.”
Zimbabwean police continue to use old laws to harass activists and human rights defenders, according to a report last month by Human Rights Watch.
Turning to comedy, Monro stated that satire was growing as local stand-up comedians and artists now play an important role in dealing with complex issues.
Zambezi News, a political satire show created by his Magamba stable, was an instant hit. It has reached millions of viewers via social networks and DVD.
The show was last week voted second best in the top 10 comedy acts of Zimbabwe by online showbiz and lifestyle magazine Zimbojam.com.
Unlike neighbouring South Africa where comedians enjoy generous airtime on TV to poke fun at politicians, the Zimbabwean state broadcasting monopoly gags political satire.
“Zimbabwe has such monopolised airwaves. So people are desperate for an alternative platform that could make them laugh and think at the same time,” he said.
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