Banning of Chamisa film follows similar action against ‘Democrats’ documentary; lawyer says move a ‘huge disappointment’

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By Paidashe Mandivengerei 

THE government’s decision to ban Oscar-shortlisted, Nelson Chamisa ‘President’ documentary follows similar action against another film by the same producers in 2014.

Award winning filmmaker Camilla Nielsson’s ‘President’ was banned by the national censorship board claiming it could incite violence and undermine the State as Zimbabwe prepares for the 2023 presidential elections.

The documentary follows events surrounding Citizens Coalition for Change then MDC Alliance leader Chamisa leading up to the 2018 presidential elections.

‘President’ gives the audience an insight into Zimbabwe’s first election without former President Robert Mugabe ousted in the November 2017 military coup.

The filmmakers legal team has since appealed the ban to the Appeal Board within the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage which is in charge of the Censorship Board.

Harare lawyer, Chris Mhike who is representing the documentary’s production team said the move by government was a “huge disappointment”.

Speaking to, Mhike said “That limitation to free expression and the flow of information came as a huge disappointment to our client.

“As media rights and freedom of information advocates, we are dismayed at the direction that the authorities are taking in the information space.

“It is our clients’ considered view that the ban of ‘President’ is without just cause, and we tend to concur with that assessment.”

Harare lawyer Chris Mhike

He added: “The law requires an aggrieved party to pursue internal remedies first, before turning to Courts of law for relief.

“We have therefore filed an Appeal with the Appeal Board within the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage being the governmental Ministry in charge of the Censorship apparatus in this country.

“It is our hope that in the coming weeks, we shall receive substantial updates from the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, as to the status of our Appeal; and it is our fervent hope that justice will prevail and therefore result in meaningful redress for our client.”

In 2014 Nielsson, who takes keen interest in the country’s political events, documented the creation of the 2013 Zimbabwean constitution in critically acclaimed ‘Democrats’.

‘Democrats’ was in 2015 banned by government before the decision was overturned by the High Court following a three year legal battle.

Meanwhile, the Danish film producer who describes the ‘President’ as evidence of the ‘injustice of a stolen election’ said whatever outcome to the appeal is a victory on her part as the process has created “a paper trail about the illegal acts of the current government”.

“If we can win the case and even if we don’t win the case the paper trail of fighting these battles is still creating a legal precedent that is important for future generations of journalists and filmmakers in Zimbabwe.”