Banning of artists a new low for the Second Republic

Statement from Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition on the Police's Interference with Musicians' Performances

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition strongly condemns the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s (ZRP) recent actions of interfering with artistic performances as seen in the recent police interferences of shows by young popular musicians

We specifically denounce the Police’s stoppage of Winky D’s show in Chitungwiza on Saturday night of the 4th of March 2023 and the refusal to clear Baba Harare to perform his scheduled show  in Chitungwiza over the just ended weekend.

We are particularly concerned that the ban on Baba Harare’s show reads more like a targeted response by the state to victimise the musician for his efforts to encourage young persons to register to vote during Zimbabwe’s harmonised elections to be held this year.

These actions, which are a clear violation of the musicians’ freedom of expression and artistic creativity, as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, are a new low for the Second Republic, which, over the past five years, has not hesitated to abuse the state security system to suppress free expression. 

This banning of musicians by the state is reminiscent of the colonial era and points to clear manoeuvres by the incumbent government to turn Zimbabwe into a one party state. This quest to control artistic expression can only draw parallels to and reads like an ill-thought imitation of Joseph Goebbels’ quest to cleanse the arts sector in Nazi Germany or the Rhodesian colonial government that banned and persecuted artistes who sang for the liberation of Zimbabwe.

 Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and is clearly laid out in Section 61 of our Constitution. We call on the Zimbabwe Republic Police to respect this right and to allow artists, especially musicians to hold their shows without such blatant political  interference..

Musicians have long bemoaned the poor working conditions in the arts industry, which has not  been spared by the poorly performing economy. Live shows currently stand out as a key source of livelihood for musicians; they are a key component of the entertainment industry ecosystem. Banning popular musicians does not only threaten livelihoods of the targeted musicians, but those of organisers, venue owners and others both upstream and downstream within the industry. In short, this is a war on the livelihoods of these artistes by the government of Zimbabwe. 

By stifling the work of musicians, the Government is destroying any prospects for the music industry to grow and compete globally. The music industry world over is a major contributor to national economies. By failing to support this key industry, the Government is failing to walk its talk on economic development, support for young people’s livelihoods and upholding its constitutional mandate. While the world watches the run-up to our harmonised elections, these actions further spoil our national image as a country and are a negation of the country’s quest to re-engage with the international community and end years of isolation and economic stagnation.

We urge the Zimbabwe Republic Police to desist from such actions in the future and to uphold the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which guarantees the freedom of expression and artistic creativity and freedom. 

We call on all Zimbabweans to stand in solidarity with musicians and other artists who face such challenges in the exercise of their constitutional rights.


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