Zim artistes should learn from the Harvey Weinstein Scandal

IN the last few weeks, the entertainment world has been shaken by the Harvey Weinstein sexual scandal.

By DANIEL NGWIRA

Weinstein is a United States (US) long-time powerful film producer worth over $200 million.
At least 50 women have claimed they were sexually abused by the movie mogul who seemed untouchable for a long time.

He helped raise over $600 000 for former US President Barack Obama and much less, though significant, for two-time presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

But in a free world of fairness and justice, this does not give any wrongdoer any cushion.

These high-profile politicians would not have approved of Weinstein’s alleged actions.

Former US First Lady Michelle Obama once described Harvey as a “wonderful human being, a good friend and just a powerhouse”.

Malia Obama had her internship at The Weinstein Company to fulfil her interest in the film industry.

The movie mogul is being legally represented by Lanny Davis, who successfully defended former US President Bill Clinton in the case against Monica Lewinsky.

The New York Times broke the story which alleged Weinstein had serially sexually harassed women for a decade and made settlements within Hollywood.

Since the story broke, dozens of women have come forward to add their names to the allegations.
Allegations of sexual harassment have isolated Weinstein in many respects including socially and politically.

He has even been fired from the company he co-founded, The Weinstein Company.

While it is likely that he may walk away with a hefty pay out, the embarrassment outweighs the financial benefits he may end up with at the tail end of the scandal.

After all he already has the money. What he will not have during and after the outbreak of the scandal is the clout and name he worked so hard for over the years.

The directors of The Weinstein Company moved in quickly to dissociate themselves from Harvey’s actions to prevent a reputational dent on the company which is already not doing well.

While it remains to be seen what the scandal will entail over the long term, the move by directors is certainly a milestone in trying to institute damage control.

But how was it possible for Harvey to be involved with women at such a scale? He had been the most powerful producer in Hollywood for a long time. He is one of the game changers history cannot ignore.

Producers decide who goes on the cast and what they should be paid. If the allegations are true, that is the power he would have used.

In such cases, if you report the matter or threaten to, you risk being removed from the payroll.
Sexual harassment and assault is not only confined to Hollywood. Here in Zimbabwe, there have been many such cases in the music and wider arts industry.

The male producers and directors or lead musicians take advantage of the cut-throat competition in the sector.

It is not easy to break through in the arts sector. Some of those who hold the keys seek to exploit prospective female entrants.

Female musicians are subjected to sexual harassment and assault.

Some band leaders, producers, promoters and those holding the keys to an artiste’s success demand sexual favours to guarantee the victim survival and growth.

Many such cases go unreported. The few cases involving high-profile musicians that surfaced died natural deaths.

Often, high-profile musicians tend to enjoy the protection and sympathy of journalists and society.
Journalists, who try to expose such culprits in the arts sector, are often seen as “player haters” and jealous of the progress and success of the accused.

The form of abuse in some cases tends to be subtle in that the person holding an influential position will appear to be kindly asking for a relationship.

Yet in many cases where the woman refuses to consent to such relationships, they tend to lose their position in the band or they may be disadvantaged in a way that clearly shows that they are suffering because they refused to give the boss sexual favours.

It is in the public domain that dancer-cum-musician Pamela Zulu, better known in music circles as Gonyeti, publicly came forward to claim that contemporary musician Mukudzei Mukombe, popularly known as Jah Prayzah, had sexually abused her.

The dancer claimed that she endured sexual exploitation at the hands of one of the most popular musicians in the country to keep her job. A number of women blasted Gonyeti for being immoral.

When I look back at the case and compare it with Weinstein versus 50 women, I see a big difference.

The women, who have come forward to claim sexual harassment by the celebrity, are receiving massive support from the public.

They are being treated with respect and while these are still allegations, Weinstein is suffering the consequences of guilt unlike would be the case in Zimbabwe.

Those who understand the arts industry will appreciate that when a band leader asks for a sexual favour, anyone who refuses would have to pay the price in the form of facing the chop.

The music sector in Zimbabwe is highly informal with band members lacking contracts that can protect their interests.

I am sure you have heard of cases where band members on tour were told at the airport that they were no longer travelling, but rather, their replacements were instead.

If that happens in the corporate world, one can go through the various channels to defend their rights.

The music industry is different. That is why we always encourage musicians to join the Zimbabwe Musicians Union to help them get protected from the vagaries of the industry.

At times, women who are made to indulge in such affairs may not see it as exploitation until some event occurs.

In the case of Gonyeti, she felt exploited the moment she was fired.

In other cases, a woman, who would have given herself to the powerful figures, realises she has been used the moment she knows that a dozen other women have been cornered the same way.

#MeToo campaign is an effort to encourage people to speak out about sexual abuse.

While women have come forward to cry over sexual harassment and assault, men have been silently suffering.

There have been several cases of wealthy and powerful women who take advantage of poor musicians by pretending to be promoters or caregivers.

Musician Dino Mudondo has been unfairly targeted by such. He was brave to speak out. Many are not.
The same woman reportedly hopped from one musician to another encircling three popular musicians with unusual charm.

I have been equally targeted, but fortunately, I have the stamina to push back and not tolerate nonsense.

In addition, each time we held shows, my long-time manager Morelife Mapeture would shield me through layers of our security team, which would make it harder for me to be reached without screening.

Nonetheless, ladies are more vulnerable in the industry. The powerful figures take advantage of the fact that it is hard to make it in the industry, so they come with all sorts of promises.

While socialite Olinda Chapel may have been right to be incensed by the unfaithfulness of her former hubby, talented and hugely popular Desmond Chideme, popularly known as Stunner, the manner in which she exposed the matter does suggest that she could have been seeking to exploit Stunner by dangling material possessions.

In fact, throughout the hullabaloo, she kept on referring to what she had done for Stunner financially. In a relationship where people are equal, this is unlikely to happen.

A few months down the line, Chapel fell in love with another musician, Tytan, largely known for the song Mukoko, which features sensational singer Ammara Brown.

This is suspicious. Why does she hop from one musician to another? With her resourcefulness, it is easy to find musicians as love birds and expect them to dance to her tune.

Be that as it may, the era of sexual harassment and exploitation is coming to an end and both men and women must stand up for each other to expose culprits in the industry.

No one thought such an untouchable figure like Harvey would be shaken by perceived weaker women coming forward to expose his deeds behind closed doors.

Artistes, promoters and managers, no matter how powerful they are, should learn to respect the rights of women in the arts sector by treating them fairly.

If one does not qualify for a role, they should be eliminated without asking for sexual favours.
It is inherently unjust to ask one’s subordinate for sex as their consent may be driven by fear of victimisation as opposed to genuine feelings.

 Daniel Ngwira is a music composer, guitarist, producer and spokesperson of the Zimbabwe Musicians Union. He can be contacted on +26773113161 or daniel.ngwira@gmail.com

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