Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly, they are ravening wolves,” warns the Gospel of Matthew.
This biblical line that warns of hypocrisy, true and false prophets, rings true to the message in Kibimbiri and Man of God, a new play by Afri-Talent theatre.
Kibimbiri, a prison warden, abuses his office and authority to the shame of his correctional institution, while his associate, ‘Man of God’, a Pentecostal church leader, with a straight face, exploits the word of God to personal advantage through deception.
The two, Kibimbiri and Man of God, call them accomplishes, are in league, plotting to imprison or kill a follower in the church that Man of God runs. The duo is eager to bury evidence that they fear might incriminate Man of God, as well as those in their cartel.
Kibimbiri ends up in more evil plots than doing his job. Worse, many of his prison posts are staffed by relatives, sycophants and mistresses who won’t question any of his sneaky actions. But it takes the bold move of his subordinate officers to finally question his excesses.
Cornered and his conscience challenged by junior jailers, the warden can no longer absorb any more nudging by the Man of God.
And with pressure bearing from both sides, something had to give way – both men lose their cool.
In the heat of the moment, Man of God draws a pistol on the warden.
But it’s the warders, who carry the moral rights and virtue of the masses, who triumph over the twin evil of manipulation and abuse of public office.
Whichever way one contextualises the play, be it at national, community, or church level, the louder message is the triumph of good over evil and failure of our leaders and anyone entrusted with authority, to live up to public expectation.
The play attacks today’s leaders for failure to offer services without abusing their high offices and pursuing selfish rewards, at the expense of taxpayers.
Kibimbiri and Man of God then begs the question; whether only those in real prisons, or even us on the outside, have been held captives.
This irony manifests in the conversation between two prisoners.
One inmate says they are privileged and don’t pay rent, have meals on time and never-ending water supply, which privileges are not enjoyed by the “free” outside the prison walls, where survival or privileges are not guaranteed.
Playwright Henry Mpiinga and director Abby Mukiibi Nkaaga use loaded dialogue and asides as key vehicles to deliver thematic concerns in the play.
The conversation, laced with considerable dose of banter and comic relief, feed into the three-hour long drama, which centres on greed, deceit, love and infidelity, and betrayal of public trust.
The setting is a prison and associated costume, complete with prisoners and wardens.
Lighting and scores are used to bolster the play’s message of love, which is focal to balancing out societal issues presented in the drama.
Newbie John Mary Ssekimpi performs the role of ‘Man of God’.
He says: “I believe the play is a mirror of many Pentecostal church leaders. In most cases, they fiercely pursue personal interests, which they achieve under the guise of being ‘men of God’. They manipulate teachings of the Bible to capture their interests.”
Michael Sserwanga Mabira, one of the veteran actors with Afri-Talent, takes on the role of a low-ranking officer in the prison.
“There are people who are doing the dirty spade work. They are low ranking officers and are never promoted but are paid higher. It is like coming across an army lieutenant whose uniform and ranks are faded, yet he works with a junior who is a sergeant, but with a new uniform and with a higher salary. At the end of the day, it is not about the rank, but how much money one is paid,” he explains.
Mpiinga maintains that Kibimbiri seeks to mirror what is expected of people in positions of power and how they misuse their authority and fail in the service of the common man.
“Are they accountable or do they exploit their offices for personal gains? The law of the land and the law of Christianity might defer. But how do you strike a middle ground? If you decide to follow a religion, do you know the premise upon which it was founded?” he asks.
As the curtain falls, play director Mukiibi, says:
“Whereas our society is rotten, there are people who remain upright in the Uganda Police Force, and in the civil service.” He closes that the issue of corruption can be dealt with and we only need a few good men to turn around the rot for public service to work again.
Play: Kibimbiri and Man of God
Playwright: Henry Mpiinga
Director: Abby Mukiibi Nkaanga
Duration: Three hours
Ticket price: Shs20,000.
Venue: Bat Valley Theatre, Bombo Road.