Government’s ban of billboard adverts by the Harare-based Club Sankayi which were brought down last week has received mixed feelings from arts practitioners.
Club owner Genius “Ginimbi” Kadungure told local media that authorities were not happy with the billboards which they felt “crossed the line with regards to nudity”.
Playwright and actor Daves Guzha said he is surprised with the move because the Censorship Board was dissolved.
“Who exactly at Censorship Board ordered that because the board was dissolved?” asked Guzha.
The Censorship Board, however, falls under the Home Affairs ministry.
Poet and author Chirikure Chirikure could only say: “Maybe they should also take time to reconsider the dressing of carnival artists who showcase in the city every year!”
Playwright Cont Mhlanga said it depends where the billboards where placed. “If it was within his premises then I do not see any reason why this should be an issue but if it is in the public space, then there might be a problem.”
Bulawayo-based Nhimbe Trust expressed dismay over such censorship.
The Trust said the acts of censorship and subsequent removal of the billboard adverts is a clear violation of the Constitution of Zimbabwe in respect of freedom of expression.
“It is our understanding that the adverts have been placed by an advertising agency that is fully cognisant of the law and code of ethics governing the practice of advertising agencies in Zimbabwe.
“We believe therefore the action of the authorities is without basis.
The arbitrary, subjective, and vague determination of what might be appropriate for public viewership on advertising billboards has led in this case to the impermissible imposition of an individual’s viewpoint disguised as the Censorship Board decision; on the community being targeted by the billboard adverts and is a clear in violation of freedom of choice and freedom of association.
“The adverts do not amount to nudity in any way, if they were subjectively considered as such by the Censorship Board; as the Supreme Court has noted multiple times, “nudity alone” does not place otherwise protected material outside the mantle of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Nor is nudity in art “harmful to minors,” said Nhimbe Trust director Josh Nyapimbi.
He added that the billboard adverts in issue are not harmful at all.
“Anyone suggesting otherwise should put forth evidence to prove that.
“We believe the importance attaching to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression must never be underestimated.
“It lies at the foundation of a democratic society and is one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every person.”
Nyapimbi said in the case Munhumeso & Ors 1994 (1) ZLR 49 (S) the Supreme Court pronounced “the importance of freedom of expression:
i. It helps the individual to obtain self fulfilment.
ii. Its assists in the discovery of the truth.
iii. It strengthens the capacity of the individual to participate in decision making.
iv. It provides a mechanism for establishing a reasonable balance between stability and social change.”
Nyapimbi said as a Trust they urge the Censorship Board to reconsider their decision in this matter as it is neither morally nor legally justiciable.
“Nhimbe Trust wishes to reiterate the following recommendation necessary for freedom of expression to thrive in Zimbabwe; in accordance with international standards and respecting the 2013 Constitution, Zimbabwe should abolish the Censorship Act and any prior-censorship bodies or systems where they exist and use subsequent imposition of restrictions only when permitted under article 19 (3) and 20 of ICCPR.
“Such restrictions should be imposed exclusively by a court of law; replace the Censorship Board and other bodies censoring or regulating artistic expressions with a classification board mandated to issue age recommendations to protect children; take measures, including training of police, to ensure the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and the Public Order and Security Act are not abused by the police to limit artistic freedom of expression in violation of the 2013 constitution and Zimbabwe’s international obligations.” Daily News