|Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings’ Policies on Censorship of Music
A look at the various censorship policies of Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings – which holds a monopoly on broadcasting in the country – and how these policies have affected the musicians in Zimbabwe
By Musavengana Nyasha – former Radio Zimbabwe presenter
Since Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings holds a monopoly on broadcasting in the country, its policies concerning censorship of music have a major impact on the development of the music industry and indeed the nation as a whole. The holding company therefore has a duty to be responsible and progressive in its attitude towards this issue.
Even during the days of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), the guiding principles concerning music censorship seem to have stayed the same. Basically, the business units of Radio Zimbabwe, National FM, Power FM, Spot FM and ZTV purport to uphold the nation’s values whilst educating and entertaining the nation. The units are also guided by the commercial aspect of the material they broadcast.
The views of the Censorship Board were always accommodated in the programme content at ZBC.
Here’s a look at the various principles and issues and how they affected the musicians in Zimbabwe.
Upholding the nation’s values
Songs that have been considered undesirable on the local scene have included those from the likes of Andy Brown, Franco Hodobo, and Robson Banda.
Andy Brown’s song “Hande Babe” was said to have popularize a saying that was undesirable and demeaning to women.
Franco Hodobo had a song banned by the conservative Radio Zimbabwe. The song was thought to be too explicit. It talked about French – kissing and passionate fondling.
Robson Banda’s side 2 of the single “Tisakanganwe Chinyakare” was banned because it was said to promote tribalism.
The Real Sounds’ album “7 Miles High” caused some problems because of its inclusion of the name of that particular hotel 7 Miles.
There were even discussions on songs that mentioned certain materials like georgette and viscose. Radio Two was the most strict station when it came to commercial content. Perhaps this was so because it was the most commercial of ZBC’s stations.
Support of the government in power
The coming of the MDC brought a lot of problems to ZBC. During the run–up to elections, parliamentary and presidential, presenters were discouraged from playing music that was critical in any way to the government.
Specific songs were hardly mentioned except for example when Radio Two had become Radio Zimbabwe and Thomas Mapfumo released his “Chimurenga Rebel”. It was said that by giving the album such a title, Thomas was clearly an enemy of the Third Chimurenga so the album could not be played on the station.
Leonard Zhakata’s album “Hodho” was another album that had some songs banned for being anti – government. However after some press coverage of this issue, ZBH chiefs denied ever banning any music and, internally they were said to have started resisting the temptation to ban music but enough hints and comments are made to make it clear to presenters what is expected of them.
Of all the policies and principles guiding the censorship of music and Zimbabwe, it is the political issue that poses the biggest threat to the development of musical expression in the country. Musicians are supposed to mirror society. They are supposed to speak for the voiceless. They have a major role in being the people’s conscience and of reminding politicians of their duty to society.
This article was written in connection with a seminar on Music Censorship in Zimbabwe held on April 28, 2005, at Mannenberg Jazz Club in Harare