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Artistes defy ban on public gatherings

BY WINSTONE ANTONIO SOME musicians have continued to stage live concerts around Harare attracting huge numbers in defiance of the COVID-19 restrictions amid reports that certain politicians were leading the defiance in order to prop up their showbiz investments.


SOME musicians have continued to stage live concerts around Harare attracting huge numbers in defiance of the COVID-19 restrictions amid reports that certain politicians were leading the defiance in order to prop up their showbiz investments.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in March, gatherings of over 100 people remain banned as part of a raft of measures to curb the spread of the deadly virus and as a result, musicians are crying foul that their source of income is threatened.

Some artistes have started staging illegal shows under the guise of private functions, attracting huge gatherings, thereby putting lives of many at risk.

A number of artistes among them Sulumani Chimbetu, Peter Moyo, Andy Muridzo, Baba Harare, Romeo Gasa and Progress Chipfumo have been staging concerts at joints like East Point, LA Rouge, Bar Rouge, Big Apple, Margolis Plaza and Electric Quench (formerly Extra-Mile Leisure Spot).

Some artistes and arts promoters have raised the red flag, saying because they are “politically connected”, venue owners are the ones continuing to host gigs at their joints risking people’s lives during the deadly pandemic.

Some of the joints that have been hosting a series of gigs are reportedly owned by senior government officials where merrymakers gather weekly, notwithstanding COVID-19 lockdown regulations emphasising the importance of temperature checks, social distancing and wearing of face masks, among other things.

All these COVID-19 regulations have not been observed in shows witnessed by NewsDay Life & Style.

In separate interviews yesterday, analysts and stakeholders in the creative sector slammed musicians, arts promoters and venue owners for risking people’s lives.

A seasoned music promoter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said politics was affecting the showbiz industry.

“There is a lot of politics at play on the showbiz scene during this COVID-19 environment. We have seen some artistes who perform despite the warnings as some politically- connected venue owners are receiving “special treatment” from the authorities as their joints have continued to host these unsanctioned shows that even exceed the stipulated numbers,” he said.

“Sadly using their political muscle they connive with promoters or musicians for these unsanctioned gigs putting fans’ lives at risk and nothing has been done by the relevant authorities to stop them. This is what has fuelled the staging of more and more concerts where fans are gathering.”

An artiste who also preferred not to be named said artistes should be preaching the gospel of safety.

“Surprisingly, there are some among us who are just careless risking people’s health by staging concerts and playing in front of large crowds amid the government’s ban in line with the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly some of the revellers are attending these shows without masks,” he said.

A fellow artiste shared the same sentiments, saying: “Imagine being selfish enough to put people’s health at risk, not taking into consideration what might happen to the non-isolated, maskless audience. As for me, fans’ safety is a huge priority and care about their families, so I am patiently waiting for the right time.”

Arts promoter Benjamin Nyandoro said while the country was recording a reduction in COVID-19 cases, creatives must be guided by the good judgment of the authorities.

“Managing the spread of the pandemic necessitated strict measures, among them a blanket ban on any form of gathering. All businesses, particularly those that involve contact were affected and with this window, everyone is taking the opportunity to get back on their feet,” he said.

“It is not good that artistes attempt to hold events, it speaks to the many cries in that supply chain. Your beverages companies, employees and the artistes. People have held on for too long and feeling the heat by every passing day. I believe events must resume and of course observe and adhere to safe practices.”

In a recent interview, renowned multi-instrumentalist-cum-music producer Clive Mono Mukundu said holding live shows in such an environment was putting people’s lives in danger.

“The holding of live shows in such an environment shows the desperation of our artistes in these tough economic times. Shows are currently the only way artistes are getting an income since receipts from CDs were affected by piracy which the government turned a blind eye to,” he said.

Although the government last week approved partial reopening of low-risk sectors of the cultural and creative industries (CCIs) in line with Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (Consolidation and Amendment) Order/2020, live concerts remain banned.

The low-risk sectors of the CCIs that had been given the greenlight to open include exhibitions in galleries and museums, book launches, film production, art schools, arts and culture centres, visual art studios, music recording studios, drive-in cinema, studio recording for online publication and theatre houses for drama, dance, movies and spoken word.

Those who are ready to resume business in the stated areas are obliged to apply to the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and can only be allowed to resume operations if the council is satisfied that they are able to adhere strictly to set COVID-19 prevention protocols and the standard operating procedures.

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