In a year where Zimbabweans literally breathed and ate politics, the arts industry could not escape the contagion.
By Kennedy Nyavaya
Artists and promoters struggling for survival in a tanking economy became willing tools of Zanu PF factions that were vying for supremacy until the historic fall of former president Robert Mugabe on November 21.
Zanu PF politicians became towering figures in most arts events and in certain instances fuelled polarisation in the arts sector to the detriment of the practitioners and sponsors.
As a way of taking stock of the major arts events in 2017, The Standard Style looks back at some of the major highlights that defined the industry.
Wandering Soul Jah Love
Soul Jah Love is an immensely talented Zimdancehall artist whose hit songs have had a great influence on impressionable youths.
He is also a musician who does not fear going against the grain and this approach to music saw him becoming a common feature at former first lady Grace Mugabe’s infamous youth interface rallies.
Two years ago, the Mbare-born lyricist dropped the popular Zanu PF anthem Happy Birthday Baba Mugabe and it came as no surprise that he was on Grace’s playlist.
However, when the tide turned in Zanu PF, Soul Jah Love quickly released a single titled Garwe, extolling the new sheriff in town, president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa was at the receiving end of most of Grace’s attacks at the nine interface rallies where Soul Jah Love’s lyrics appeared to energise the then first lady’s supporters.
It seems the Zvinhu singer has a penchant for aligning himself with anyone controlling the levers of power and has little regard for principles.
Although known for being unconventional, Soul Jah Love needs to tread cautiously in the “dirty” game of politics.
Also not to be outdone was Killer T and Sniper Storm who penned songs celebrating Mnangagwa’s rise after Mugabe’s fall.
It appeared as if the upcoming musicians did not learn much from the rise and fall of artists such as Tambaoga.
Politics messes up Miss Tourism
At the height of Zanu PF’s factional politics, the modelling industry was thrust into a crisis because of an alleged beef between so-called Lacoste and G40 politicians.
Former Foreign Affairs minister Walter Mzembi’s wife, Barbra, who was the Miss Tourism’s licence holder, allegedly had some beef with then Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantino Chiwenga’s wife Mary.
Mary heads the Miss Zimbabwe pageant. Barbra and Mary’s alleged rivalry was often viewed with political lenses.
It was no surprise when Miss Tourism’s benefactor Justice Maphosa dumped the pageant and moved to sponsor Miss Zimbabwe.
It was downhill from then for Barbra and the pageant that had shown so much promise the previous year.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) CEO Karikoga Kaseke also entered the fray and Barbra lost the licence. As a result of the infighting, the dreams of the pageant’s 15 finalists were shattered.
The finalists want to know what will happen to the $80 000 the government had provided for the pageant.
The Zodwa Wabantu debacle
Zodwa “Wabantu” Libram took South Africa by storm in 2017, entertaining guests with her suggestive dances and going commando.
ZTA had hoped to use Zodwa Wabantu’s newly-found fame to raise the profile of the Harare International Carnival but the idea was trumped by politics.
Zodwa was billed to parade herself in the streets of Harare before then acting Tourism minister Patrick Zhuwao blocked her with support from Mzembi, who was Tourism minister at the time.
They claimed the fact that the South African did not like wearing underwear and that made her presence a threat to Zimbabwe’s moral fibre.
Zodwa is yet to set foot in Zimbabwe despite the fall of Mugabe’s regime.
The ban was later lifted but many are to date still questioning the decision as she had performed in Bulawayo prior, albeit at a night club.
Makhosini Hlongwane’s sad exit
A few weeks after being re-assigned to the Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture Ministry, Makhosini Hlongwane was swept aside.
The few weeks he spent at the helm of the portfolio had seen positive changes in the arts sector.
Hlongwane was one of the ministers that lost their jobs when the military forced Mugabe to resign after several days under house arrest.