By Lance Guma
03 September 2010
A few weeks before the second anniversary of the signing of the power sharing deal all signs are that the coalition government remains determined to control freedom of expression. Two days after jamming the frequencies of SW Radio Africa’s shortwave broadcasts it’s reported the country’s censorship board has declared it will now be a crime for artists to perform without an entertainment licence.
Solomon Chitungo, an official with the Censorship Board, is quoted as saying; ‘This is not a new thing it has always been there but it's just that it was not applied strictly and artists have been performing illegally. The certificate will be valid for 12 months. It's just like a drivers licence, we are also just issuing a licence to provide entertainment and if one is to be found without the certificate we will stop the show and confiscate their equipment,’ he said.
In March this year Bulawayo based artist Owen Maseko was arrested following an exhibition depicting the Gukurahundi Massacres and decades of oppression under Mugabe’s regime. He was eventually released on US$100 bail after 4 days in custody. Last Friday his exhibit was officially banned by the censorship board and on Monday he was charged with ‘obscenity and ethnic bias.’ A few days later he was charged with ‘making false statements to incite violence’.
Newsreel has been told artists like Maseko will now need to pay US$25 a year while institutions will have to cough up US$155 a year to get the entertainment licence. While the law is not new, as the censorship board official admitted, their motivation in dusting-off an outdated law from Ian Smith’s Rhodesian regime is meant to find yet another way of controlling free expression. The Censorship and Entertainment Act has been amended since the Rhodesian days, but still retains a lot of its previous repressive clauses.
Top selling musician Leonard Zhakata, who songs have been banned by the state broadcaster, told Newsreel on Friday that he knew about the licencing requirement from a few years back.
He said although he was not against the law per se, he was concerned that it would be used to target individual artists and musicians. He said the licencing requirement should not be used to ‘take our freedom.’
So is his music still banned by the ZBC? Zhakata said he does not bother listening to them, since they ‘make me out to be a bad person.’