By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
16 May 2014
The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe has set new requirements for international artists wishing to perform in the country.
Under the new rules, promoters or event organisers wishing to bring in foreign artists should also submit police clearances for each individual artist, in addition to the usual documents.
Documentation should also include a list of all the individuals, names of members of the group, their support crew with passport details showing issuing country and dates of expiry, dates of proposed entry and exit and the port of entry or exit.
The arts body also wants a minimum of three local bands to appear in international music concerts.
Event organisers will also have to submit a detailed budget showing the expenses, the show’s projected revenue, venue capacity, as well as projected gate takings.
“The promoter has to be honest. If the promoter is found to have deliberately falsified this information, the licence and the show will be cancelled.
“The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe will scrutinize the budget and all relevant documents to see if the project is viable and if the promoter can meet all the expenses of the project,” the Arts Council said this week.
Former Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart described the new requirements as a clampdown on artistic expression.
“This is another control mechanism from the increasingly paranoid ZANU PF government,” Coltart said.
The former minister said the new regulations appear to be part of a general clampdown by ZANU PF as the regime becomes increasingly aware of its failures.
“With the current malaise in the country, it is inevitable that people will express their discontentment through artistic forms such as poetry and protest music.
“We know that authoritarian regimes get worried when artists start to express themselves that way, just as we saw with the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Coltart said songs are perhaps the most effective way of influencing the youth “who may otherwise remain ignorant of the fact that targeted sanctions are not the reason why they are unemployed”.
He said as economic conditions worsen, it will not be surprising to see ZANU PF coming up with ever more desperate control measures as the regime tries to gag critics.
The new rules come barely a fortnight after South African group Freshlyground was denied entry to Zimbabwe, for no apparent reason.
The popular group had been billed to perform at Zimbabwe’s premier arts bonanza, the Harare International Festival of the Arts, earlier this month.
Immigration authorities claimed the group’s papers had not yet been processed, citing late submission of the application by the festival organisers.
HIFA disputed this, and said the group had been cleared by all the relevant departments, including the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe.
Many people linked the group’s deportation to their 2010 satirical song Chicken to Change which poked fun at ZANU PF leader Mugabe and angered the regime.
Entertainment promoter Ezra Tshisa Sibanda said the requirements will make it very difficult for those in the industry to bring foreign artists into the country.
“It is clear that government now wants the Arts Council to strictly monitor and act as a gatekeeper and bar artistes deemed hostile from entering the country.
“Regarding the police clearance for the foreign artists, we are not even clear who is supposed to apply for this or which police force should issue the clearance.
“It would seem that these additional rules are meant to thwart rather than promote the arts and entertainment industry, and as is the norm in this country there have been no consultations with those who will be affected by these new requirements,” Sibanda said.