A legal practitioner, Mr Kucaca Phula, begged to differ with the decision taken by the law enforcing agents:
“In terms of POSA when it comes to bona fide authentic music shows such as Mthwakazi Arts Festival, a thing that has been running for the past five years, there is no need for a clearance certificate. Only a draconian measure was taken against the organisers because some people view the term Mthwakazi with political innuendos and connotations that is a wrong judgement. The credentials for the festival are not different from those of the Harare International Festival – celebrating Zimbabwean culture through arts and they take place round about the same season. If it was because the president was in town why don’t they do the same in Harare during HIFA because the president resides in Harare?”
Canceling the launch was a serious catastrophe on the festival because at the launch is where stakeholders meet and discuss notes on the development of the festival’s future and it is where business related to the festival gets to surface.
“Only the launch was blocked but the festival went on as planned, although we were frustrated and demoralized. We could have met somewhere in private but we did not think of that because we are a transparent organisation that does not have a hidden agenda what so ever,” said Kholiwe Nyoni.
“We view this as some form of censorship on our part because the presence of the head of state in our town meant that we were to shelve the launch of the festival. So when the president left town we were allowed to continue with the festival although we begged for that. The festival then proceeded for the next four days,” Kholiwe Nyoni emphasized.
Attempts to stop DJ Cleo
This was not the first time for the festival to be frustrated as last year South African Cleopas Monyepao (DJ Cleo) was hunted by the Central Intelligence Organisation who wanted to make it a point that he did not perform at the event.
The argument was that DJ Cleo had made silly jokes about Mugabe, remember making jokes about Hitler in Germany was a crime and so they attempted to employ this on the South African DJ. According to a Zimbabwe Newspapers editor who refused to be named, “We were told to ignore the festival where DJ Cleo was to feature because the ministry believed that the DJ had no respect for Robert Mugabe.”
An entertainment reporter who has since left the state controlled media, Japhet Dube also added that, “I had presented a story on the DJ Cleo show in my diary for the conference and it just suffered a natural death.”
So the festival went on and there was no mention of it on the regional papers The Chronicle and Sunday News, which are state controlled, the security agents failed to raise a concrete case against DJ Cleo and it was reported in the Zimbabwe Independent that DJ Cleo went past the heavy eye of the Central Intelligence Organisation
Hosia Chipanga: anonymous death threats
The Zimbabwe government is in the fashion of disturbing live shows that it feels may pose a threat to what they think people still have for it – credibility.
Last year the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union’s workers day celebrations were dealt with a bad blow when Hosiah Chipanga declined to perform at the last minute after receiving death threats from the Central Intelligence Organisation.
Chipanga said, “The anonymous callers would ask me if I still valued my life. I then decided against proceeding with the performance for my own personal security,” indicating that despite the threats he will continue to sing about the many social, economic and political problems.
“I preach my gospel through music. Human threats will not deter me and I will continue to express myself through music in order to help Zimbabwe,” he added.
Later on Chipanga was also found at loggerheads with the state security agents when they warned him from singing his “unbecoming lyrics” at a gala in the Midlands to honour fallen heroes. Such behavior has led to him being ignored for national events, radio airplay and artistic recognition.
The ZCTU is a breeding ground for political activism, it is where the Movement For Democratic Chance surfaced from and it is an organisation that looks at the plight of the proletariat (working class).
Oliver Mutukudzi’s sound engineer: apprehended
There was also the case of a sound engineer who worked for Oliver Mutukudzi who was apprehended after a live performance where it is said that he directed a stage light on Mugabe’s portrait when Tuku was tuning out his banned ‘Bvuma’ a song that has been interpreted as directed to Mugabe.
Artists such as Mutukudzi and Mapfumo command a huge following and their lyrical composition has always been under the spotlight. The government tried to pin down Mutukudzi for his song ‘Bvuma’ and he gave an excuse that he did not direct the song at the head of state. Actually it referred to his relationship with his children. Mutukudzi has been on record for making it clear that he is not a ZANU PF supporter after a series of botched attempts to align him and his music with the ruling party.
Thomas Mapfumo: exiled
Thus censorship in Zimbabwe is mostly on music that has the potential to cause civil unrest and undermines the government with political connotations.
When an artist gets frustrated in his native country he chooses to go into exile where he can practice freedom of expression. Names such as Kenyean Ngugi WaThiong a novelist comes into mind. Thomas Mapfumo and Lovemore Majaivana did the same. Both went to the United States of America a country with one of the best constitutions that gives a comprehensive approach to freedom of expression with its bill of rights.
Thomas Mapfumo is viewed by some as a national hero for his combative style of music, which includes singing theme songs for the revolution. Mapfumo, who hailed the new political dispensation in 1980, sang songs praising the new leaders but soon turned his wrath on them after realizing they were falling into greed and corruption. In 1989, he sang ‘Corruption’, which decried ‘rottenness,’ and the following year, ‘Jojo’, warning people not to be used by politicians.
In the late 1990s Mapfumo focused his attention on corrupt leaders in Zimbabwe whom he felt had let down the electorate, and his songs were taken off the air. This was especially so for those from his 1999-album, ‘Chimurenga Explosion’, most notably ‘Disaster’, which was prophetic about the current situation in Zimbabwe and the launch of the violent land redistribution program. After a series of threats against him and the banning of his music, Mapfumo and his family went into voluntary exile in the United States. He took his family to America fearing victimisation for his stance as a musician.
Lovemore Majaivana: exiled
A similar case is that of Lovemore Majaivana who has vowed not to come back to his motherland under the current government. His music has mysteriously been taken off air but lately pressure groups find solace in his music for instance the song ‘Leliize alilamali’ (‘This country has no money’) was used by the Women Of Zimbabwe Arise when they took to the streets in protest against the way the country’s economy was being run.
No matter how much music gets censored it will circulate under ground reaching people. It is their only hope to a free world of expression.
“The views of the censorship board are accommodated in the policy of the various stations under Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings. There is also the concern of the Minister of Information as well as the Media Information Commission weighing in on censorship issues. I remember during my time at ZBC a number of songs were banned mainly Thomas Mapfumo’s album Chimurenga rebel, Andy Brown, Frank Hodobo and Robson Banda all for different reasons,” he said.
On political censorship he highlighted that, “When it comes to politics music that was done by ZIPRA choirs was very limited because prior to the Unity Accord music from that political sect was destroyed hence meaning that after the accord there was less exposure of this music to the public. ZIPRA music was viewed as unhealthy for the politics of the day. I actually fired a DJ for playing such music during my time, I was just doing my job.
Leonard Zhakata was also banned not on paperwork but practically as all DJs were told not to play certain songs from his album Hodho making it difficult to produce evidence that the music was banned,” he said.
The censorship board is a government department under the ministry of home affair. It is housed at Magombe building. I could not get the information on how many people work there but the people who work at the censorship board are civil servants whose salaries are paid by the government.