MUSICIANS' revenue collecting agency, the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura), has sensationally-claimed it received threats from former president Robert Mugabe's government when they wanted to effect a High Court order to attach State broadcaster ZBC property.
This emerged last week, when Zimura - represented by board members Charles Charamba, First Farai, Mechanic Manyeruke and Polisile Ncube, the association's executive director and their legal advisor Witness Zhangazha - appeared before Parliament to give evidence on the continued non-payment of royalties by ZBC.
"The High Court granted us an order to attach 15 ZBC vehicles to pay off the 2009-2010 debt which had accumulated to $707 421,13 but when we were trying to enforce the law, … Mugabe's government through ex-attorney and (then) Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana issued us with some threats saying our organisation was too small to attach State property.
"He went on to threaten us that if we go ahead with attaching the property, they would evoke presidential powers to close our organisation," Ncube told the Daily News. However, following government intervention, Zimura and ZBC later agreed on a payment plan that would see the national broadcaster liquidate the debt through monthly instalments.
But last week Zimura - which has the mandate of protecting the performing rights of music composers, authors and publishers in Zimbabwe and internationally through collecting royalties on their behalf, issuing licences to music users and distributing royalties to the right holders - told the parliamentary committee that ZBC is continuously "refusing" to honour what the parties agreed on.
"ZBC has entered into a contract with Zimura to say we shall use your music as and when we wish throughout the day, night and year; and in return we shall pay you royalties that are calculated using the revenue that we make from advertising during our programmes.
"So it's not like a donation, the relationship is that ZBC attracts listeners to its programmes by playing music from our members and they actually get money out of it because advertisers pay them after knowing that viewers have been attracted to these programmes. "So this money that we are claiming is not like it is going to be generated somewhere by ZBC but it is money that has already been generated by music.
"ZBC is either refusing, failing or neglecting to pay what it owes," said Zhangazha. Last year, the revenue-collecting agency failed again to remit enough royalties for musicians and they resorted to distribution basing on payment from Star FM, ZiFM among others.