- The Zimbabwe government, running scared in the face of mass anger at the economic hardships caused by its failed policies, is desperately trying to stifle any independent voices - including those of musicians and artists. The latest victims of its heavy-handed crack-down on freedom of expression are award-winning musician Hosea Chipanga and South African DJ Cleopas Monyepeao.
Mr Chipanga was set to perform at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) function at Gwanzura stadium on May Day but was forced to cancel his performance after receiving anonymous threats. Mr Chipanga told ZCTU general secretary, Wellington Chibebe, that he was disappointed by the politics of Zimbabwe.
"Chipanga has been receiving threats through his mobile phone and they had even gone physically to his place to warm him to refrain from performing at our functions. This dictatorship by Mugabe needs to be condemned in strongest terms. Chipanga is an artist and artists speak for the voiceless. Mugabe is restricting Chipanga from sending the message to the people who desperately need it," said union leader Chibebe, adding that the ZCTU would not sue Mr Chipanga for breach of contract.
Speaking from Harare, Mr Chipanga said "I was supposed to perform at Gwanzura but I won't be due to the threats I have been receiving through my phone. I'm not quite sure who is phoning me but I have been phoned by three different voices warning me not to perform or else loose my life."
"This is not the first time I have performed at ZCTU organized functions, so I wonder why these threats are coming now. Though I know I would be safe during the performance, my life would at stake afterwards. This is why I have decided to withdraw," the famous Zimbabwean musician added.
Mr Chipanga, who sings in the local language Shona and whose music is laden with social and political messages, has also in the past brushed shoulders with the CIO, Zimbabwe's dreaded spy Central Intelligence Organisation, after playing songs at a state-funded public gala last August suggesting that President Robert Mugabe would only relinquish power through death.
Union leader Chibebe said the ZCTU would go ahead as planned, but emphasised it was not celebrating May Day, but commemorating it. "We are not in a mood to celebrate. Workers are under siege, and we need to organise, unite and fight on. With workers' standards of living continuing to slide there is really nothing to celebrate," he said.
Meanwhile, South African DJ Cleo has been banned from performing in Zimbabwe because he "is said to have uttered bad things" during his visit to the country last year.
DJ Cleo was scheduled to perform in the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo at the weekend during the kwaito night of the Umthwakazi Arts Festival. National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) wrote to immigration officials asking them to withdraw clearance for the kwaito star to perform until these allegations had been investigated.
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