Respect Artistic Expression!

ZimRights Statement on the dying freedom of expression in Zimbabwe

ZimRights notes with concern the stifling of the freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. This has been a growing trend that was recently manifested with a Winky D musical show that was disrupted by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).

ZimRights has noted how there has been a systematic attack on the freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. Artists like Thomas Mapfumo have had their music banned from Zimbabwe’s public radio stations for being voices of dissent. In January 2023, the Economic Empowerment Group (EEG), a ZANU PF- Affiliated lobby group, wanted Winky D banned for his music which they deemed as “anti- development”. On Saturday 4 March 2023, members of the ZRP stormed the stage in Chitungwiza, where Winky D was performing live, forcing the show to come to a stop. This was not the first time that the artist has been targeted for his social justice lyrics, which some people find offending. This is reminiscent of colonial -era antics that were used to arrest and persecute artists who sang against the injustice that the government was carrying.

ZimRights would like to remind the government of Zimbabwe that the supreme law of the land, affords all Zimbabwean artists the freedom of artistic expression. Section 61 (b) of the Constitution says that; Every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes (b) freedom of artistic expression and scientific research and creativity;

This freedom is also guaranteed in other regional and international instruments which Zimbabwe is bound by, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) under Article 19 (2) which says that Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. 

Further, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Article 9(2) states that every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law. 

ZimRights would like to remind the government of the need to walk the human rights talk and would like to quote  a statement by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. During his speech at the high-level segment of the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council held in Geneva, Switzerland, Honourable Ziyambi Ziyambi said, “my Government renews its commitment to equality for all, to the sanctity of life and human dignity, and to the protection of all fundamental human rights.” This must not just be in word but in deed.

It is against this background that ZimRights implores the government of Zimbabwe to put a stop on the systematic attacks on the freedom of expression by artists and everyone else in Zimbabwe.

Therefore, ZimRights makes the following calls;

  • That the ZRP takes makes thorough and impartial investigations into the disruption of Winky D’s show and, and to take corrective measures to bring redress to the artist as well as to show themselves as a non-partisan police service.
  • That the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe should show up and defend the creative space as a true champion of the promotion and development of the arts sector, and
  • That the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Honourable Kirsty Coventry protects the artists whom she serves.
  • Finally, ZimRights commends and encourages all artists using their talent to fight injustice, corruption and human rights abuses in our society. Art is a vital cog in our Zimbabwean society and goes beyond art for art’s sake!

Issued by the ZimRights Information Department