The Book Café and Mannenberg venues are located at the Five Avenues Mall in Harare’s Avenues suburb.
The place is considered by many Harare creative lovers as an oasis of free expression for over a decade.
The Book Café and Mannenburg, located at Fife Avenue Shopping Centre, were opened in 1997 and 2000 respectively. They had established themselves over the years as an island of artistic freedom and freedom of expression.
Old Mutual Property says it want to use its property that has prompted a major outcry on social media networks with a campaign dubbed the Save the Book Cafe/Mannenberg Campaign have been launched on Facebook to a healthy response from the industry captains.
The announcement came just days after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had launched his book at the place.
The award winning two venues were being managed by the Pamberi Trust and Book Cafe recently was awarded the prestigious 2011 Prince Claus Awards worth €25 000 for its role in “culture and development”.
Artists like Batsirai Gama and Edgar Langeveldt have all liked the page expressing disappointment and asking for reconsideration.
According to a statement from Pamberi Trust, OK Zimbabwe Pension Fund and its agents Old Mutual Property who own the Five Avenue Shopping Mall served notice to all tenants in the building that they intend to occupy the premise in 2012.
In the Facebook campaign for the reversal of the Old Mutual decision, the administrators of the page wrote: “We Are Calling For An “Artists Boycott Ok Campaign”. Please Spread the Word. Let It Filter Through All Social Networks.”
Langeveldt summed up by saying: “Blacks, whites, coloureds, tourists, Indians, Chinese, the whole world would be in harmony at Book Cafe. It was a little slice of what the whole country could be if we just lived, liked, loved, sang, jammed, danced, laughed, cried, shared, ENJOYED! MILLIONS OF MEMORIES!”
In total 7500 concerts and functions, 650 public discussions, over 70 book launches, 35 theatre productions, 150 international touring acts and countless new local acts and collaborations had been hosted at the two venues.
About 600,000 people have entered the twin venues since they were opened.
Africa’s great jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim was one of the first artists to perform at the two entertainment joints.
In a statement Artists for Democracy in Zimbabwe Trust, which has hosted its Arrows of Art debates at Book Café described the closure as “sad.”
“We are saddened by the closure of the two venues which we considered to be a bastion of freedom of artistic expression and media. We hope Paul and team will soon find an alternative to provide the Zimbabwean civic society with a place to share ideas and grow arts in Zimbabwe,” the ADZT statement read.