Pop group banned over Mugabe chicken insult

A South African pop group known for its World Cup collaboration with Shakira has been barred from performing in neighbouring Zimbabwe after releasing a video depicting President Robert Mugabe as a chicken, band members said tonight.

Freshlyground singer Zolani Mahola said the band was informed last week by Zimbabwean authorities that work permits for concerts planned next month had been revoked.

Ms Mahola said no reason was given, but she believes the spark was the Chicken to Change video, which the seven-member band released earlier this month.

Zimbabwean immigration officials have refused to comment on the work permits for Freshlyground, the band that collaborated with international star Shakira on Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) the official anthem for South Africa’s June-July World Cup. It was the first World Cup played in Africa.

The video for Chicken to Change which is on the band’s latest album, depicts Zimbabwe’s long-time president isolated in his limousine, uncaring of his people’s suffering. The video’s Mr Mugabe puppet transforms into a fearful chicken as Ms Mahola sings for change in Zimbabwe, a country gripped by economic and political crisis.

Ridiculing the president is illegal in Zimbabwe. Even gesturing at his motorcade in a manner deemed disrespectful can result in arrest. It’s common for people to be briefly detained and fined for insulting Mr Mugabe.

Mr Mugabe was hailed as a liberation hero when he helped lead Zimbabwe to independence from Britain in 1980. But he is accused of holding onto power ever since by jailing and beating dissenters.

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