THE Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) organisers yesterday broke their silence, saying they were also puzzled by the Immigration Department’s decision to bar South African music outfit Freshlyground from performing as the closing act at the annual event on Sunday.
Despite the setback, Hifa said they remained optimistic that they would again engage government to bring Freshlyground for a show in the immediate future to cover up for the mix-up.
Hifa in a statement yesterday said they had received government assurances that the group would be allowed into Zimbabwe.
“Hifa has not received any reason for the denial of entry of Freshlyground. Other government ministries and departments are also surprised at the denial of entry,” Hifa said.
According to Hifa, the itinerary for all artistes billed to perform during the festival had been cleared after their payments, including that of Freshlyground, was accepted.
“Hifa paid NAC (National Arts Council) fees and got NAC clearance letters. No objections were raised by the authorities pertaining to the group’s coming.
“Hifa paid the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority fees and received clearance letters. No objections were raised,” the festival organisers said.
All other statutory payments, including censorship and temporary employment permit fees, were also made, Hifa added.
Hifa added that out of the seven–member group, only two members, including Keith Farquharson, were permitted entry. Hifa said the award–winning group’s application was valid so it could not have been a case of “bungling”.
In the absence of official reasons behind the move, there has been widespread speculation that the last–minute deportation could have been torched by the controversial music video, Chicken for Change, done by Freshlyground in which the group mocked and denounced President Robert Mugabe for clinging to power.
Freshlyground has, however, said the video was a mere piece of humour in art.
“Hifa is, however, confident of the government departments’ capacity for common sense and professionalism which Hifa has always experienced from these departments and Hifa is also confident such common sense and professionalism will set in,” added the Hifa statement.
Hifa said legally, only groups that would have secured a contract with the NAC were required to meet the statutory payments and “all of this was done (many weeks in advance) and everyone was aware of the group’s coming”.