Harare bans Freshlyground gig

2010-09-11 00:00

ROBERT Mugabe is a chicken. So says top South African band Freshlyground’s latest music video — Chicken to Change — which takes a satirical look at the Zimbabwean leader.

The the video has prompted Mugabe to ban the group from performing in Zimbabwe next month. The band was scheduled to perform at the Wild Geese Lodge in Harare.

Organisers of the show — Event Solutions, a Harare-based event management company — told the media this week that the group’s work visas, which had already been issued, were revoked by the Zimbabwean Immigration Department in “unclear circumstances”.

“We have heard that,” said Sarah Barnett, spokesperson for Freshlyground. “Unfortunately we can’t comment at the moment.”

Barnett did not say why they are facing difficulties in getting work visas in Zimbabwe.

Freshlyground has performed in Zimbabwe on a number of occasions without encountering any problems.

An official in the Linquenda House headquarters of the Immigration Department in Harare confirmed the cancellation of the group’s working visas.

“Yes we cancelled the visas for that music group,” Evans Siziba told the media, but the department’s policy does not oblige it to give reasons for turning down visa applications.

Freshlyground’s Chicken to Change video, made in collaboration with the satirical Internet show ZA News, features cartoonist Zapiro’s puppet caricatures of Mugabe, Jacob Zuma, Helen Zille, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

The video shows the Freshlyground band members dressed in Zimbabwean-style 1980s fashion performing a choreographed chicken dance, with the lead singer Zolani Mahola peforming with the puppets in a shebeen.

The song’s lyrics are about what a noble “super nova” Mugabe was and how, somewhere along the way, he fell.

Said Mahola, “There was something so incredibly refreshing about dealing with the serious subject matter of the president’s resistance to change in such a light and colourful way.

“Hopefully it still gets the message across clearly.”

Commenting on the video, Zapiro said that “working with Freshlyground gave us the opportunity to finally add [Mugabe] to our cast of latex characters.

“Although I positively love this puppet, I truly hope we can retire him sooner rather than later.”

Freshlyground told a South African daily news website that they “do not fear Mugabe’s reaction”.

The group’ spokeperson Barnett said Freshlyground “believes in freedom of speech and that people should be able to talk about topics that affect many civilians”.

“The video is not an attack on Mugabe at all,” said Barnett.

“It is a tongue-in-cheek challenge for him to reflect on things and become the hero he used to be, to consider his actions and surprise us.”

Freshlyground recently performed with Shakira at the 2010 World Cup opening concert.

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