Musicians have threatened to stop Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster from
playing their music unless royalties are increased to a meaningful
amount, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.

At present, Zimbabwe Broadcast Holdings pays Z$95 for each time a song is played – amounting to less than half a SA cent.

To earn enough to buy a single loaf of bread costing Z$50 000 (R2.50), a song would have to be played about 526 times, almost twice a day every day for a year.

For the whole of 2006, Oliver Mtukudzi, the highest paid artist, got a total of Z$500 thousand (R25).

The lowest paid musician received Z$1500 (R0.075).

Musicians also complain that the ZBH delays or sometimes fails to pay royalties.

Zimbabwe Music Rights Association manager, Polisile Ncube says :"We have more than 2 000 members right now. ZBC paid us Z$4 million (R200) for a whole year. This figure does not mean anything at all. We are actually subsiding ZBC." She also said: "It’s true the money has been affected by inflation but what can we do? We do not have any contingent measure to top up the money"

In a meeting the association held with ZBH, Ncube says they told the country’s sole broadcaster to stop playing its members’ works if it cannot pay better fees. "When I joined this association 10 years ago, we never had to licence people in order to raise money. But now we are doing it because ZBC, which is our biggest customer, cannot pay us well yet they declared a profit.”

ZBH denies making a profit, saying it cannot increase the royalty payments because it is facing viability problems.

In a separate development, a French film distribution company is threatening to file contempt of court charges against ZBH and government. Daro Film Distribution which won a US$1 million lawsuit against Harare last May over an unpaid debt are demanding that the ZBH be charged for contempt of court because they have still not outlined how they intend to pay the debt.

The government assumed ZBH’s US$869 247 debt after the broadcaster failed to pay for film and television programmes supplied over years by the Monaco-based Daro. Interest charges have since pushed the amount up further.