Officials at the annual multi-arts extravaganza, which roared into life on Tuesday, confirmed the police raid but would not give details saying they would issue a statement later. The officials said the police did not have a search warrant and were uncompromising.
Police general headquarters were evasive when contacted for comment. An officer in the press unit said they were not aware of the raid.
The raid, at the HIFA offices located at the Crowne Plaza Monomotapa Hotel in the city centre, did not come as a surprise to artists neither was the festival new to such police action.
Artists particularly said the hard hitting music-theatrical production, titled Treasure, that was performed during the opening night of the ongoing 12th edition of HIFA on Tuesday must have provoked the state security.
The musical appeared directly targeted at the style of rule of Zimbabwe’s veteran ruler, President Robert Mugabe, in power for 31 straight years and still seeking to further extend his rule.
The musical, produced by Brett Bailey, combined astounding dances and imagery telling the all too familiar day-to-day story of corrupt fat cats and how they manipulated the povo who survived on crumbs while the leaders lined their pockets with riches.
The production climaxes with overwhelming triumph of people power after the masses revolted against the despotic ruler who was portrayed as an aged and frail man constantly guarded by aides in military fatigue.
Earlier in the day sharp tongued poets had lashed out at Zimbabwe’s rulers and criticised the state of democracy.
A youthful Bulawayo based poet Bhekumusa Moyo lashed out at dictators in poetry that kept audiences captivated.
Moyo chanted: “I declare war on leaders who don’t uphold democracy. Directors of dictatorship shall fall one by one in no particular order but they shall all fall. No government will kill forever.’’
Moyo told Radio VOP in an interview: “As artists we have the mandate to make the leadership accountable to the people. If I fear for my life then I lose relevance as an artist.”
Regional artists have also descended on HIFA to lend support to their Zimbabwean counterparts.
Renowned South African poet Pitila Ntuli told VOP after his performance: “We want HIFA and particularly poetry to engage the issues of the day. We want to mobilize the people to be sensitive to what is happening without insulting anyone. We are saying the African dilemma is that we are independent but not free. It’s not yet uhuru (freedom).”
In 2003 police banned a theatrical production Super Patriots and Morons during its run at HIFA. The play depicted dictatorship and was widely seen as being targeted at President Mugabe.