THE cash-strapped Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has been ordered to pay over $600 000 to the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura) after they were taken to court over non-payment of musicians’ royalties.
REPORT BY CHARLES LAITON SENIOR COURT REPORTER
The operative part of the court order granted on Thursday reads: “Judgment in the sum of $607 253, 46 be and is hereby entered against the respondent (ZBC) in favour of the applicant (Zimura) with interest on this sum at the prescribed rate from December 31, 2009 for the amount $160 715,36 and from December 31, 2011 for the amount of $446 538,10 up to date of payment in full.”
In granting the order, High Court judge Justice Francis Bere castigated ZBC for engaging lawyers to defend it mid-trial after realising it was staring at a crisis.
“Perhaps in passing, I must emphasise that it is not advisable for a party to try and engage counsel when it is already staring at a crisis like in this case. Counsels should be engaged from the very beginning to avoid unnecessary litigation,” Bere said Zimura dragged the national broadcaster to court after the latter reneged on payment of the outstanding royalties for music it played on its radio and television stations. Zimura’s lawyer Witness Zhangazha told the court that his client had an agreement with ZBC that they should pay 10% of their advertising revenue as royalties of music played on air.
He said the agreement expired in 2011, but the understanding was that it could be renewed automatically after its lapse if both parties were agreeable.
Zhangazha told the court that if either party wished to terminate the agreement it would communicate within 12 months before its expiry which ZBC never did, but was still playing his client’s music.
ZBC, however, had reportedly described money it owed musicians as a “windfall” and also argued that the royalties had been affected by inflation, an assertion dismissed by Zimura.