Zimbabwe: More Zanu PF Jingles Coming to ZBC?

Regulation & Policy

A fresh row is looming in the shaky inclusive government as it has emerged that Zanu PF is set to launch a new wave of partisan jingles. Already there is a storm brewing over a set of jingles by the Mbare Chimurenga Choir that are receiving more than their fair share of airplay on all Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) radio and television stations.

The choir is back in the studio working on a 10-track follow-up album, while another outfit, Asambeni Theatre Club, is producing more jingles in Bulawayo. "We are recording an album with 10 songs that are similar to the ones we produced before," Elizabeth Bwanya, leader of Mbare Chimurenga Choir confirmed last week.

Zanu PF commissar, Webster Shamu, who doubles as Media, Information and Publicity minister, is reportedly coordinating both projects. Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara last week said Shamu was going to be instructed by cabinet to issue a statement on the jingles, which are played every 30 minutes by the country's sole broadcaster.

A defiant Shamu on the other hand told The Standard last Friday that it was not his role to say which songs should be played on television and radio. "That will be setting a precedent and I will be accused of stifling the same freedom of expression that you are all crying for," said Shamu. The minister said he was not aware that cabinet had directed him to issue a statement on the jingles, saying he had been in China all along.

Asked whether he had coordinated the jingles projects, Shamu was evasive, claiming that he was the patron of all musicians."I want to promote our musicians and want to see Zimbabwean music that promotes our values being played," he said. The new set of jingles reportedly ridicule the inclusive government, saying Zanu PF leader President Robert Mugabe should rule till "donkeys grow horns".

Both formations of the MDC have not hidden their displeasure at the current set of jingles and have raised the issue at cabinet meetings. ZBC was reportedly ordered to stop playing the jingles, but the state broadcaster has so far defied that directive. MDC-T spokesman, Nelson Chamisa was livid at the reports, arguing that ZBC was allowing itself to be used for partisan and parochial interests. "We took our own jingles to ZBC and they started jumping around and they refused to play them," he said. "Sometimes we wonder whether they are broadcasting from Zanu PF headquarters or from Pockets Hill."

Chamisa said the jingles were in contravention of broadcasting laws, political practice and the Global Political Agreement. Efforts to get a comment from MDC-M spokesmen, Edwin Mshoriwa and Nhlanhla Dube were fruitless as their mobile phones were switched off.