The case against Tanzanian musician Mwana Cotide and music producer Mussa Sikabwe has been postponed for a twelfth time to 11 October 2017 for what officials claim are due to the investigation being incomplete and files being misplaced, Freemuse has learned.
Further, the artists’ defence lawyer, Tundu Lissu, was critically wounded by gunmen on 7 September 2017, leaving the musicians without representation.
Freemuse is deeply concerned about the continued prolonging of the case and the political developments against human rights defenders in Tanzania that have led to such a violent attack on one of the country’s leading oppositional voices.
“Mwana Cotide and Mussa Sikabwe, as citizens and artists, have their rights of artistic expressions protected by the international covenants the Tanzanian government are a party to. The charges against them must be dropped so the musicians can return to living a normal life, free to create and perform their art without fear,” Freemuse Executive Director Dr Srirak Plipat said.
As part of the investigation, Sikabwe’s musical instruments have been confiscated and the duo have not performed or produced any music since, thus leaving them without means to earn a regular living or afford a lawyer to replace Lissu who remains hospitalised.
The two artists were initially set to face trial on 12 October 2016 on charges of producing, singing and distributing a song called “Dikteta Uchwara” (Petty Dictator) that contained “seditious and offensive” content against Tanazanian President John Magufuli.
The 12 October 2016 trial date has been postponed at least 12 times so far from the most recent postponement from 25 September 2017 to 11 October 2017, a full year since their initial trial date.
Lissu, a Member of Parliament with the opposition party and vocal critic of Magufuli, is recovering at a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, where he was airlifted to for fear of his safety if he remained in Tanzania.