Uproar over Bev and Zoey arrest

HARARE - They have drawn the awe of a nation desperate for diversion in the face of biting economic and political problems.

Their erotic pole dancing and  strip tease routines have kept pubs packed countrywide. But Bev and  Zoey, Zimbabwe’s undisputed club dance queens have also ignited fierce public debate over a profession that is only making waves in Zimbabwe now but has been part of everyday life for decades in many other countries.

Last week, the police spoiled the fun by “arresting” the two on public indecency accusations.

The Daily News on Sunday’s Assistant Editor Maxwell Sibanda spoke to entertainment industry experts and lawyers. Read on…

Police have been accused of over reacting when it recently arrested strip tease dancers Bev and Zoey for public indecency on the basis of photographs published in a local newspaper.

The dancers were arrested on allegations of public indecency on Wednesday afternoon and released after spending a night in cells at Harare Central Police Station.

A senior lawyer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Tawanda Zhuwarara said Bev and Zoey cannot be charged with public indecency on the basis of the pictures that were published in the media.

He said a careful reading of section 77 (a) of the Criminal Code reveals that an act can only be deemed indecent if it occurred in or near a public place, or in or near a private place that is within the view of the public.

“The pictures were taken in a bar during an evening show. Such a place cannot be considered public because access to the venue was restricted to individuals of a certain age and only those who would have paid.

“In any case in my view section 77(a) is couched in such a vague and generalised manner that it would not stand constitutional scrutiny.

“Our courts have already declared that all laws must be formulated with sufficient precision to enable a person to regulate his or her conduct. In this instance the provision is vague on what is considered indecent. It does not state which moral standard will be applied by the court in assessing indecency.”

Zhuwarara  said what is indecent to one individual may not be indecent to another. “For example children are taught and encouraged to perform in public cultural dances such as Jerusarema...a dance that mimics sexual intercourse,” he said.

Playwright and television script writer Leonard Matsa said for police to abuse the  law to meet a “bigotry moral end” is bad law enforcement.

“These girls have nothing to hide, excuse the pan. We cannot say the same for the people who are arresting them. It is time some people realise Zimbabwe is not just about politics. There are other citizens who want some social vibe, you know, therapy from our toxic politics as the ones provided by the dancers!” said Matsa.

The playwright urged the police to leave the young women alone. “The development forces us to now revisit our definition of public space. In my opinion they do not perform at open-air but in closed places where  no-one is forced to go and watch them.

“I do not like their act and I do not go to their showcases. Those who like them go to closed spaces where they are entertained. To abuse the law to meet a bigotry moral end is bad law enforcement,” said Matsa.
Theatre producer Daves Guzha said it is puzzling that the police arrested the dancers for public indecency.

Guzha could only ask: “What is the classification of indecency?”

Playwright Cont Mhlanga said it is wrong for the police to go to night clubs and victimise strip dancers for working where they should be working.

“I saw the police comment in one of the newspapers and felt like they are reacting to pressure from sources who do not understand the entertainment industry. It is wrong to expect strippers to be banned from stripping and entertaining adults at night clubs,” said Mhlanga.

The playwright said Bev and the dancers do their acts at night clubs and not even at leisure clubs.

“They do not take their acts to halls and weddings. They dance sex acts at night for adults who want and enjoy such acts. These adults for God’s sake know all about what the dancers are doing. They don’t dance during the day at First Street, the Agricultural Show or ZITF,” said Mhlanga.

He wondered where the police would like adults to go and have adult entertainment if not at night clubs.

“The girls are not even doing porn because this country does not have licensed porn clubs yet!

“Wait until we have licensed porn clubs and you will notice the difference. Whoever told police that night clubs are for isitshikitsha and mbakumba is wrong,” said Mhlanga.

Mhlanga said the culprits here are newspaper editors publishing culturally indecent pictures by Zimbabwe standards in family and business publications.

“Let Bev, Zoey and them girls do their jobs at the places where they are supposed to work. Arrest the editors for publishing indecent photos in family publications. They are the ones breaking censorship laws not the dancers!”

Mhlanga said Bev and Zoey were not the first ones to engage in pole dancing and strip tease.

“Lisa and her fire eaters were already doing this in Bulawayo clubs as far back as the 1980s. No one ever screamed because the papers left that where it belongs; the night clubs,” said Mhlanga.

Documentary producer Zensele Ndebele said police arrested the girls because they are a soft target.

“Why did they arrest the dancing girls and leave the newspaper that published the pictures? If the pictures were indecent that means the newspaper also crossed the line and published indecent pictures not fit for public consumption,” said Ndebele.

He said it was not a punishable offence to do pole dance and strip-tease. “But the problem is Zimbabwe is a very conservative society.”


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