Wreiner Mandu’s latest script, ‘Die Mentions in Dimensions’ is a cautionary tale that should be seen and taken seriously by politicians and young impressionable voters alike.
The play, staged by Igiza Arts Productions, was on at Kenya Cultural Centre last weekend. It has a message that was best summed up by the show’s MC Ramsey Njire.
He basically said (to paraphrase), “We just passed April Fool’s Day, and we don’t want to see another Fool’s Day on August 9th when voters get hoodwinked by politicians who manipulate with money and false promises.”
It's the sort of story that could have been censored or even banned in another era for being too blunt and transparent about the motives and machinations of most politicians.
They claim to be ‘for the people’, but only want to win public office so they can ‘eat’ and serve themselves.
In ‘Die Mentions’, the politician in question is Farai (Jeff Obonyo) who literally lusts for the governorship.
Together with his equally greedy wife Ayodele (Njambi Kagwara), they plot to win the high office by any means necessary.
And while Mandu never identifies what country his story is set in, in fact, it could be in innumerable places where sham elections are held in the name of ‘democracy’, but corruption is key to acquiring and keeping power.
Since we’ve been told the play has relevance in light of Kenya’s forthcoming election, we could easily assume Farai’s quest for power is in Kenya.
On the other hand, since 'Die Mentions' is also a political satire, there’s no need to assume that any of Mandu’s characters are replicas of real-life politicians.
Nonetheless, the playwright definitely draws from local politics while revealing what could conceivably be accurate backstories that no real politicians would like revealed.
For instance, Farai is flagrant about the way he uses money to buy people’s votes.
Egged on by his wife, he dishes out cash and false promises to everyone from his daughter Lelissa (Lisa Odhiambo) to his cadre of rally supporters to an impoverished mama who, for a bag of groceries, 50 bob, and an assurance he will help her pay her daughter’s school fees, will give him her vote.
What’s fascinating to see is how fast money can buy loyalty. His daughter was a devoted member of the Revolutionary Art Movement and its charismatic leader, Amadi (Suzanne Karani), was her best friend.
Even her boyfriend Mawali (Brian Karani) was part of the movement. But because Farai knows Amadi and her movement are his biggest obstacle to winning the governor’s seat, he insists his daughter get out of it.
Initially, Lilissa looks like she won’t betray her friends or disavow the ethics that the movement wants to restore to governance.
But the money daddy doles out together with the parental pressure on her to join her dad’s team finally breaks her down.
Dad also promises that she will soon go to international schools and enjoy a classier quality of life once he wins. She’s finally enticed and it's disheartening to see.
So is the ease with which Farai lies with a smile and a promise to bring ‘change’ for the better to everyone once he wins.
He has never had that intention, meaning he’s a fraud from the word go, much like many politicians we know, including Trump in the US and the guy promising to dish out wheelbarrows once he wins the top job here.
In fact, most people Farai seduces for their votes seem to initially be skeptical of him.
But the money and his sweet promises are even able to lure in loyalists of the Art Movement like Mayeso (Darwin Wanjiru) and his dad, Abroye (Waya Maxwell) with his lies.
Once he wins the election, Farai immediately starts eating. He instructs his new Bursar Abidemi (Javan Baraza) to forget about awarding merit and only give bursaries and scholarships to his relatives.
He also instructs Abroye who he appoint head of security to ‘fill the cemeteries’ if necessary to quash public demonstrations against his rule.
In so doing, he inadvertently kills his own son. But that’s not an issue that disturbs the Governor.
Farai’s new regime looks like many we have seen in Africa and various parts of the world where nepotism, misogyny, and other divide-and-rule tactics quickly turn into fascist states.
But that’s not the end of the story of ‘Die Mentions’. The Opposition fights back, kidnaps the Governor, and who knows what happens after that!
This cliffhanger ending stuns but also satisfies a wish for justice to prevail.