Underfire ZIMURA to host AGM and Lazzie T hearing next week as more artists speak out.

On Wednesday the NewsDay carried an article that touched on the issues of artists’ royalties and the ongoing tiff between the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (ZIMURA) and some of their members who are aggrieved over an alleged failure by the body to pay them in time among other things. The following is the last part of the published article.

Plot Mhako, Germany

Next week ZIMURA will be hosting its Annual General Meeting on the 3rd of December in Harare and two days later will conduct a hearing for one of its members, outspoken music producer Lazarus Chapo who is facing disciplinary action over his outbursts in a video where he castigated the collective management society for failing artists.

The video that torched the storm.

The ZIMURA board is made up of musician First Farai real name First Bhatani, Deputy ICT Minister Honorable Dingumuzi Phuti, gospel musician Mechanic Manyeruke, Phillip Chipfumbu, Nathaniel Ncube, renowned poet and Chairperson Albert Nyathi and his deputy chairperson Pastor Charles Charamba, the Executive Director Polisile Ncube-Chimhini & legal advisor Witness P Zhangazha.

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ZIMURA board members at the 2018 AGM. Pic credit _ ZIMURA

Several artists are openly expressing their unhappiness with how their affairs are handled by ZIMURA.

In 2017 at the Zim Hip Hop Summit, the collection society representative was quizzed by music expert and blogger PhilChard on why they were using 40% of their gross revenue on administration. Hebert Ncube of ZIMURA struggled to give a satisfactory response. Below is a snippet from the conversation.

Hip Hop musician Noble Stylz had no kind words for ZIMURA saying, “Zimura has become a stencil of failure because the tangent of their mandate have been peddled along with secondary excuses to a primary flaw. Primarily ZIMURA has been entrusted with collecting revenue on behalf of artists and paying the custodians of the art. Failure to do that is pure incompetency which requires a fresh look.”

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Noble Stylz _ pic _ BRANDZA

He added that “If you fail to do your primary job, the secondary mode of how much is given back to artists though important is not really a factor because even if you remove the corruption on stage two the incompetency on stage one remains. They have failed to collect royalties in time and that’s their primary mandate.”

“Interestingly they have never failed to pay their staff, there has been reported corruption and use of 40% of 3000 plus member artists’ sweat blood and tears to pay for “admin costs” for a handful of non-artists.”

Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Musicians Union (ZIMU), Edith WeUtonga added her voice saying, “ZIMURA has failed dismally to deliver and this is the reason why musicians are feeling aggrieved and the fact that they do not address this issue and instead they turn to send threats to artists will only aggravate the situation. At this moment they need to agree to failure and it is wrong for them to attempt to silence member artists who pay their bills and salaries.”

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Edith WeUtonga _ pic _ WeUtonga website

ZIMURA has in the past dragged the most defaulting broadcaster ZBC to court but rulings made in its favor have not been honored to date. In 2017 the state broadcaster which operates four radio stations and a TV channel had paid only $42 000 and awed $750 000. According to the Annual General Meeting minutes of 27th September 2018, Starfm was the only station that was paid up royalties.

On average ZIMURA collects $1.2 million dollars annually but this amount has been reduced to a pittance since the conversion of the local currency to RTGS value. In addition to the domestic collections there are international remittances that come in the form of neighboring rights royalties which is money paid for Zimbabwean music played outside the country.

Events organiser and music critic Marshall Shonhai said, “Zimura has failed because artistes are not being paid. They might be collecting but Is the money finding it’s the way to where it must go?”

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Marshall Shonhai

“Secondly as a watchdog, the organization is supposed to be looking out for the rights of its members and the question again is, have they been doing that? There is a new form of piracy and it is digital. Many artists are losing out on a lot of revenue through online music pirates.  What is Zimura doing to protect the rights of its members? Zimura needs urgent reformation”

Norman Mafuratidze a South Africa based Zimbabwean music expert echoed, saying the Music Zimbabwe Music Rights Association could be lacking some 21st-century competency to execute a critical responsibility to administer music rights on behalf of its members. The board is a perfect example of institutionalized dereliction and systematic failure which must be discarded as a matter of urgency”, said Mafuratidze

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Norman Mafuratidze

The fact that some members are complaining over royalties backlog from as far back as 2014 is confirmation of the embedment of bureaucratic inertia incubated by a congregation of old-scholars who ought to be dislodged to pave way for fresh brains.

“There is an obvious urgent need to restructure, reform and restore the institution into a modern-day association capable of representing the genuine demands and concerns of music composers and publishers with transparency and integrity. A new Zimura should be reflective of the advancing dominance of young artists and must also serve widows of late musicians, a constituency which is equally necessitous. Its communications department has, by omission, entrenched the board’s competitive authoritarianism through laxity on matters epicentral to both its mandate and reason for existence.” added Mafuratidze.

Austria based singer, songwriter, performer, music producer and member of the multi-award-winning Insingizi group, Vusa Mkaya believes ZIMURA to go digital like other collecting associations worldwide so that artists can be able to log in online and register their songs for live performances and airplay.

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Vusa Mkhaya _ pic _ BBC

“We need young people who have artists and composers at heart and are willing to go the extra mile to see that royalties are collected worldwide and paid quarterly like what other collecting associations do. The registration fees must be reviewed as well to accommodate the young and upcoming artists. Artists must run the Zimura office. There are some artists who are academics as well and I think those will do a good job because they know the artists struggle” Mkhaya

EARGROUND had an interview with ZIMURA Deputy director MR Henry Makombe and several artists. Mr Makombe was adamant that the body is operating above board and everything is professionally done but cited the increase in operational costs as the reason for the registration fee hike and blamed the failure to pay full artists’ royalties in time on defaulting broadcasters.

He also added that artists need to participate and fully acquaint themselves with important information on their operations instead of relying on speculation and hearsay and urged them to engage their offices if they have queries.

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Lazzie T _ ZIMURA Summons

Next week will be quite interesting as the AGM and the hearing take place. Both events could be a turning point. The bickering and counter-accusations by both parties is untenable and retrogressive. Proper dialogue and engagement by all interested artists including the state are vital in addressing the welfare of artists and building a functional music industry.

Link from the conversation below

Until next time, the plot thickens.

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