by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – ONE man’s death can be another man’s ticket to riches.
The death of legendary Zimbabwean musician, Oliver Mtukudzi, and music pirates cashing in on his demise by selling counterfeited material as demand for his music soared gives credence to the saying.
As soon as news of the death of the award-winning superstar filtered through last Wednesday, after he battled diabetes, pirates saw it as an opportunity to make a killing from fans and music followers shattered by the news scrambled for discs and movies produced by Mtukudzi during a career that spanned some four decades and over 60 albums.
In between the hits were some movies such as Neria and Jit.
Vendors of pirated material, operating at major taxi ranks, makeshift market stalls and openly in the streets reported brisk business amid a scramble for compact discs (CDs) and Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices.
Days after his death, the illegal trend is still prevalent in Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria as well as other towns such as Bloemfontein, Cape
Town, Durban, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Port Elizabeth and Rustenburg where the counterfeit products are sold for as lowly as R10 ($0,15) per CD and
up to R150 ($10,70) for USBs.
Albums pirated from original Mtukudzi offerings such as Dairai, Chikonzi/Messenger, Mutorwa, Neria, Nhava, Nyanga Yenzou, Paivepo, Pfugama
Unamate, Shanda, Tsvivo, Tuku Music, Vhunze Moto, Ziwere and Zvauya Sei were among the best sellers.
While lax law enforcement is blamed for the cancer that is piracy, members of the public that patronise the pirates are complicit, including some who
spoke to CAJ News Africa.
Mduduzi Zulu at Johannesburg Park Station, claimed he could not get any of Mtukudzi’s music at retail stores.
“I was left with no choice than to find the music through other means,” Zulu said.
Rhulani Chauke of Alexandra north of Johannesburg said there was no better way of celebrating the life of fallen African icon like Mtukudzi than through his songs.
“To the world, we will never stop celebrating Mtukudzi’s legendary, great peace, a bundle of talent, calabash of wisdom through inspired street entertainment,” Chauke said.
Alas, his actions were tantamount to celebrating piracy than celebrating the legend.
In an interview with CAJ News, African Diaspora Forum (ADF) Chairman, Dr Vusi Sibanda, bemoaned the prevalence of piracy, pointing out it occurred mostly in countries with the highest levels of poverty.
“It’s unfortunate Mtukudzi, who dedicated rest of his life in music is also a victim of piracy. It’s unfortunate piracy cannot be stopped because of high rate unemployment in many African countries,” Sibanda said.
“Although pirated music is of poor quality, a majority of poor people would settle for cheaper CDs, thus depriving artists of their work. What is required is a concerted effort by law enforcement agents to stop music illegal acts,” Sibanda added.
African Solidarity Network (ASN) spokesman, Prince Abenge, also urged the South African government to take action against piracy.
“It’s a pity increased illegal sales of Mtukudzi music’s happens in the streets of South Africa barely a week he died. African governments and
music bodies are not doing much to protect African artists’ intellectual property rights. Piracy is a serious crime, not only in South Africa, but across the continent and entire world,” Abenge said.
He said artists such as Brenda Fassie and Mduduzi “Mandoza” Tshabalala, both South Africa household names died poor yet they had a huge following.
“This is due to piracy,” Abenge bemoaned.
South African-based Zimbabwean businessman, Michael Mawere, also urged the South African government to intervene.
“Law enforcement agents must arrest culprits found selling pirated CDs and USBs with Mtukudzi music,” Mawere said.
Government has in recent years initiated campaigns, often work in partnership with NGOs and musicians themselves, to address the scourge of piracy.
The Copyright Act of 1978 strictly promulgates severe punishments for piracy perpetrators but convictions are rare.
A first conviction carries a R5 000 fine or three years in jail for each item that is pirated. Thereafter, the sentence is up to a R10 000 fine or five years in jail.
There were no immediate comment from South African Police Service (SAPS).
– CAJ News