BY WINSTONE ANTONIO

SOME stakeholders in the creative sector have called for a revision of the suspension of gatherings of more than 100 people as announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to curb the spread of the COVID-19 after some local artistes defied the directive by staging live shows, putting lives of many at risk over the weekend.

Mnangagwa last week declared the pandemic a national disaster and announced a raft of measures that include the ban on public gatherings of over 100 people as part of efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

Surprisingly, dancehall singer Killer T (pictured), defiantly hosted his birthday bash in Mbare, that attracted more than the prescribed numbers. Rhumba sensation Madiz on Friday travelled to Mvurwi, Mashonaland Central for a performance at Mzansi Bar supported by Terry Mbofana, while comic dancer Apama was also on the stage in Melfort.

In this current COVID-19 crisis, where Zimbabwe has so far reported two official cases of the novel virus and one death, arts critics have expressed displeasure that the continuous holding of live shows puts many people at risk.

A number of countries have put their creative sector on a “lockdown” to slow down the spread of the highly-infectious coronavirus.

The government has shelved the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI) Indaba, shutdown three National Galleries of Zimbabwe events and some artistes including sungura maestro Alick Macheso, Selmor Mtukudzi, Sulumani Chimbetu cancelled their shows until further notice.

Arts promoter Benjamin Nyandoro said the artistes have to deal with the impact of the cancellations and or postponement of performances or events during this period of uncertainty.

“The order (gatherings of more than 100 people) needs to be revised, not that I am saying the industry must suffer, but there is need to practise self-safety, thus self-restriction which is important in all efforts to curb the spread of the disease.

“The call for an explicit order is, however, a tricky call that can be met with mixed reactions, but it is a bitter pill to swallow as people should not put other lives at risk. Remember this is a chain because it’s not only the concert organisers, but also the people who are participating by turning up for the events.”

In a statement on the state of the creative industry in the wake of COVID-19 last week, National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) executive director Nicholas Moyo said the arts sector will be faced with a tragedy of unprecedented level.

“As NACZ, difficult as it maybe, we call upon all stakeholders, stockholders, players and consumers in the cultural and creative industries to step up and comply to the response measures set by the government,” he said.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 knows no timeframe and knows no numbers, as industry players we need to think people and not event. If players are to put people first and cancel, suspend or postpone events that had been planned already, we will go a long way in contributing in a positive way to the national response.”

Renowned multi-instrumentalist-cum-music producer Clive Mono Mukundu said to continue holding live shows in such an environment was putting people’s lives in danger.

“The holding of live shows in such an environment shows the desperation of our artistes in these tough economic times. Shows are currently the only way artistes are getting an income since the sales from CDs were wiped out by piracy which the government turned a blind eye on,” he said.

“We just hope and pray that the pandemic does not hit Zimbabwe as much as it did in places like Italy because it will wipe us out. Besides those few gigs, we still have overcrowding problem in public transport, banks and water queues.”

Accomplished producer Macdonald “Macdee” Chidavaenzi said artistes who continue to host shows in this COVID-19 environment were setting a negative precedence.

“Do we have to see loss of life to take this seriously? Musicians are supposed to do awareness songs during this time. What good is money if you do not live to use it? These artistes are sending the wrong message. This is not the time to be going against the President’s orders,” he said.

Apart from the artistes taking to the stage, it was business as usual at a number of watering holes across the country with some areas recording huge numbers.

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