Freshlyground cleared by Nac: Hifa

HARARE - Organisers of the Harare International Festival of Arts (Hifa) claim that South African band, Freshlyground, was denied temporary employment permits on the eve of the festival despite being cleared by all the other relevant bodies.

The popular South African group, which was scheduled to be the closing act of this year’s edition of Hifa, was immediately deported after landing at the Harare International Airport on Sunday.

Tafadzwa Simba, Hifa head of media and community liaison, told the Daily News that they did all the processes required before foreign artistes perform in Zimbabwe.

“Freshlyground’s case was not different because Hifa brings in an extraordinarily high number of artists, all our papers are processed at the same time. This has been the norm every year and there has never been any problems. We processed the papers in the same way, having notified all the relevant departments weeks in advance,” said Simba.

The Hifa spokesperson added that Freshlyground’s tour was approved by all the relevant arts and tax bodies before being knocked back by the immigration department at the eleventh hour.

“One has to get approval from and make payments to the National Arts Council (Nac), Zimra, Board of Censors and then go to immigration.

“These payments (to the relevant bodies) were made and receipted and clearances received in writing. Payment for TEPs (Temporary Employment Permits) for all groups were made on April 28. Approval for all groups (except Freshlyground) was confirmed on April 28, the day before the Festival.

“An appeal was immediately made on April 29 as per regulations but there was no response,” said Simba.

The Hifa spokesperson added that reports that they applied at the eleventh hour for Freshlyground‘s temporary employment permits were wide off the mark.

“Freshlyground’s application was made along with other groups who were granted entry. It must be borne in mind that one cannot even approach Zimra and the Board of Censors without showing Nac the contract and getting clearance for the group from Nac. All fees were paid.”

According to Simba, Hifa, which had paid the South African group in advance, had sold over 3 000 tickets for the closing show which were going for $25 each.

“The group had been paid; Hifa has not subsequently discussed financial matters with them yet.

“The losses are still being calculated.”

Hifa, which is currently in the process of refunding those who bought tickets for the South Africa act, insisted they were not told by the authorities why Freshlyground was refused entry.

“There was no reason given for this denial of entry. Hifa is, however, confident of government departments’ capacity for common sense and professionalism which we have always experienced from these departments and Hifa is also confident such common sense and professionalism will set in,” added Simba.

Freshlyground last performed in Zimbabwe in 2009 when they performed at the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) ceremony.

Unconfirmed reports say the South African group is being barred from performing in Zimbabwe as punishment for producing a song and comedy skit in 2010 titled Chicken to Change which ridiculed President Robert Mugabe.

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