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(Johannesburg)- Zimbabwe Human Rights Watch said today that on March 4, 2023, police stormed the stage and shut down a show by a popular musician known for his critical remarks. Wallace Chirumiko, 40, better known as “Winky D”, is a well-known reggae-dancehall artist who recently album It contains lyrics against social and political injustice, corruption and the economic downturn in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean authorities should immediately investigate and take appropriate action against the officials responsible for these acts of intimidation, harassment and other acts of intimidation against artists who peacefully express their views. The authorities need to fully respect and protect the rights to freedom of speech, expression and assembly, particularly ahead of general elections due in July or August.

“Shutting down Winky D’s show sends a message that the Zimbabwean authorities are willing to harass even the most popular artistes for their words,” said Idris Ali Nassah, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Zimbabwean government needs to take strong action quickly to demonstrate that free expression will be respected, or there are genuine concerns that the upcoming elections may not be credible, free and fair.”

Following the release of Winky D’s album in January, the Economic Empowerment Group, a lobbying group affiliated with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF party, organized a news conference Stating that Winky D should be banned from performing at any public event or public venue in Zimbabwe and that all local radio stations should be forbidden from playing his music.

The group accused the musician of inciting discontent among the country’s youth as part of a “regime change agenda”.

Members of Zimbabwe’s arts community expressed concern that the government’s crackdown against Winky D is part of a wider threat to basic rights and freedoms ahead of general elections.

Professor Fred Zindee, an academic, author and musician, told,

vinky d song ‘ibotso,, Which talks about corruption, mismanagement and misappropriation of national resources by some elite, harasses the officials and has made Winky D a marked figure. With elections approaching, any politically conscious popular musician who sings about anti-government sentiments becomes an enemy and the government will try to intimidate and suppress that artist’s thinking.

Theater and film producer Daves Guza told Human Rights Watch: “The police action against Winky D was a clear abuse of power. The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe should stand with artists and take action against such abuse of power.” Needed.” State and its agents. He said: “We cannot have a situation where artists cannot express themselves freely because they fear being harassed, arrested or their rights being violated. Being an artist is not a crime.

During the same weekend, another popular musician known as Baba Harare, whose number exceeded 400,000 Facebook have been using their platforms to encourage followers and youth to register to vote, posted that the police had denied them permission to hold a show. No reason has been given, he said.

On March 5, Baba Harare wrote on Facebook: “It is with great sadness that I have to inform you that my scheduled event in Chitungwiza has been cancelled. The police did not give us permission to protest.

“The harassment of the musicians highlights the Zimbabwean government’s growing intolerance of voices deemed critical of the Mnangagwa administration in mid-year elections,” Nassah said. “The authorities should stop harassing artistes and allow them to express their views and practice their art without any fear. The authorities must act swiftly to ensure that the police are impartial and are not used to violate freedom of association and expression protected by international law.

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