Zanu PF draws from Zimdancehall to boost crowds

DJ Fantan (in track suit) speaks to President Emmerson Mnangagwa at a Zanu PF rally in Epworth yesterday. The musician led a group of Zimdancehall artistes who performed at the rally. Picture: Aaron Ufumeli

Zanu PF has turned to Zimdancehall artistes to perform at its rallies in urban areas in a bid to boost crowds and woo the youth vote ahead of the March by-elections and the 2023 harmonised elections.

The ruling party has over the years employed diverse strategies through which it sought to consolidate and stay in power, particularly in rural areas where it promoted a culture of fear and discourses that delegitimise rebellious voices.

However, in urban areas, the ruling party had been playing second best to the opposition MDC since the turn of the millennium.

Despite employing strategies that targeted the urban youth population including the introduction of the 75% local content policy to promote local artistes, among other policies, Zanu PF has been found wanting when it comes to elections in urban areas.

Zanu PF being aware of the youth demographic and high rates of youth unemployment, coupled by the rebranding of the Nelson Chamisa-led Citizen Coalition for Change, has revisited its strategies and it looks like its intensifying its way of doing business.

Sources said Zanu PF views youth as a political threat with businesspeople aligned to the ruling party pouring in lots of money in order to help Zanu PF win the hearts of the youths through engagements with influential people like celebrities, musicians and socialites.

This has seen the likes of Passion Java, Mai Titi and Sandra Ndebele, among others openly declaring their support for Zanu PF.

“There is a lot of money changing hands and a number of influential people have been approached to prop up support for Zanu PF in the forthcoming elections,” said a source.

“Zanu PF will do anything to win these by-elections, especially here in Harare and they are dishing out money to these youths.”

The source said the rally in Epworth yesterday where Zanu PF lined-up a number of artistes to perform, bears testimony of what is in store in the forthcoming plebiscite.

Yesterday Mbare-born producer Arnold Kamudyariwa, popularly known as DJ Fantan and his Chillspot Records co-founder Tafadzwa Kadzimwe, aka Levelz, headlined a Zanu PF rally in Epworth where they were supported by artistes such as Enzo Ishall, Jah Master, Bazooka, Pumacol, Uncle Epatan, Ginna Marina, Automan, Shashl, Yahyah Goodvibes, Ras Pompy and Ras Caleb.

DJ Fantan, who was convicted for organising an illegal crossover gig during lockdown at Mbare’s Matapi Flats last year, on Friday confirmed on his official Facebook page Fantan Dweet that they were to perform at the rally.

“Tomorrow [Saturday], we are performing at the rally in Epaz [Epworth].

“Every youth let’s meet there. We are going!” posted DJ Fantan.

Zanu PF insiders told Standard Style on Friday that DJ Fantan and Levelz were now paying for their freedom.

“If you check with these guys, shortly after their release from prison they were seen in the company of the President’s sons. They have also formed a record company Scarfmore Records with the help of one of the first family’s sons,” said insiders.

“They have to pay for their freedom, they were seen as crowd pullers on that night they held that illegal crossover gig and the party believes they can pull the youths at rallies for them.

“The same can be said of Enzo Ishall, he tried to quit music and we were told the first sons were assisting him with some business. So, he also has to impress his paymasters.”

The insiders said the ruling party dangled the money to a number of Zimdancehall and urban grooves musicians, with some turning away the offer.

“Musicians like Seh Calaz did not take up the offer. If you check, Zanu PF youth visited his studios in Mbare just recently in a bid to lure him, but he didn’t like it,” added the insider.

Zanu PF has in the past tried to use artistes at its rallies and one such event was when an overzealous Zanu-PF Youth League official Innocent Hamandishe publicly dressed down the late Zimdancehall musician Soul Jah Love at a rally at Sakubva Stadium in Mutare in 2017.

A few days later, the Ndini Uya Uya hit maker reacted to the incident with a song that seemed to suggest that the youths who came to Sakubva Stadium on that particular day were not there for the Zanu PF rally, but to listen to him.

Soul Jah Love died in 2020 and was declared a provincial hero. Again Zanu PF took charge of the burial, taking advantage of the presence of hundreds of youths who had come to pay their last respect the musician.

In 2012 Zanu PF conferred the late musician Andy Brown a hero status and wanted him buried at a provincial shrine, but the family is said to have refused saying the musician had advised them that he wanted to be interred next to his mother in Mberengwa.

The offer for provincial hero status was in recognition of Brown’s involvement in the land reform campaigns —  Hondo Yeminda — which he spearheaded on the musical front at the turn of the new millennium.

Brown’s popularity had paled at the time of his death as people did not want to be associated with him due to his links with Zanu PF.

A number of musicians that have associated themselves with Zanu PF have found the going tough after parting ways with the ruling party.

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