BY KENNEDY NYAVAYA/MIRIAM MANGWAYA
SOCIAL media was yesterday left in shock after Chillspot Records duo of Arnold “Fantan” Kamudyariwa (pictured) and DJ Levels (real name Tafadzwa Kadzimwe) along with show promoter Simbarashe Chanachimwe, aka Dhama, were sentenced to an effective six-month jail term each for actively participating and organising a gig at Mbare’s Matapi flats on New Year’s eve in breach of lockdown regulations.
The three were convicted on their own plea of guilty to contravening Statutory Instrument 77 of 2020 of the COVID-19 regulations, when they appeared before Harare magistrate Vongai Guwuriro.
They were sentenced to 12 months in prison each, with six months suspended on condition of good behaviour. In passing sentence, Guwuriro said she considered that they did not waste the court’s time and pleaded guilty.
The magistrate also said although they had shown remorse by pleading guilty, they had committed a serious offence when they hosted the party during the 10pm to 6am lockdown curfew, hence a fine or community service sentence would trivialise the offence.
Although the Mbare trio pleaded guilty, some people on social media felt that the sentence was too harsh considering that the three were not the only ones who hosted a party on the night in question.
“That was too harsh, a hefty fine would have sent a clear message though. When are you taking in the other perpetrators, we saw a lot of videos circulating … Justice shouldn’t be selective,” wrote @BopelaBopela on Twitter.
Political activist Linda Masarira took to the same platform suggesting that a fine would have been appropriate.
“As first-time offenders, I feel the sentence is too harsh. They should at least have been given a hefty fine for violating #COVID-19 regulations. DJ Fantan, Levels & Dhama are just entertainers who got overzealous. We have murderers & armed robbers roaming the streets out on bail,” she wrote.
Another social media user @tmugwagwtaps suggested that the incarceration would affect the income of many other artistes who depend on Chillspot Records.
“I think a custodial sentence is too harsh for people who somehow contribute to the development of music and arts in our country. A non-custodial sentence could have done justice,” he wrote.
True to these sentiments, Fantan and Levels have been central to the empowerment of young and up-and-coming ghetto chanters in the country. With the kind of musical monopoly they have, one can only imagine what the local Zimdancehall landscape will look like when they are behind bars.
However, some users said the judgment was a good example for would-be offenders so that they take COVID-19 restrictions seriously.
“Yes, let this be an example to everyone that COVID-19 is real, henceforth let’s adhere to the measures set to control the spread of the virus,” tweeted @ChiringaSamuel.
@chinoztong added: “Good lesson to would-be violators of lockdown regulations. These people are putting us at risk. Six months is even a lesser sentence.”
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation deputy minister Tino Machakaire said there was need to consider a lenient sentence for the trio.
“I am glad that the law took its course and rightfully. However, my wish would have been for a lenient sentence given that they admitted to their crime,” Machakaire posted on his Facebook page yesterday.
“The influence they have will go a long way in creating awareness among the ghetto youths on the reality that is COVID-19.
“My wish would have been for them to do community service by giving back to the community in the form of awareness campaigns, using the power of music to educate the public.
“However, justice has been served and we cannot dispute it. Let this serve as a caution for future law breakers.”
It is uncertain whether the Mbare trio will appeal against the sentence, but if they serve the six months, it could affect the relevance of Chillspot Records, which has been a leading promoter of dancehall music for close to a decade.
Follow Kennedy on Twitter @ken_nyavaya