HARARE – A popular Harare drug dealer and two music producers have been sentenced to an effective six months in prison, after six months were suspended, following a guilty plea to charges of hosting a huge New Year’s Eve party in breach of Covid-19 regulations in Mbare, Harare.
Tinashe Chanachimwe, aka Dhama, a feared drug peddler in Mbare who is mentioned in Winky D’s hit song Reggae Musambo reportedly organised the event which has led to the suspension of four police officers.
Prosecutors on Tuesday had asked a Harare court to impose jail time and hefty fines on Chanachimwe and dancehall producers DJ Fantan, real name Arnold Kamudyariwa, and Chillspot Records co-founder Tafadzwa Kadzimwe, popularly known as Levels.
Prosecutor Michael Reza accused the three men of attempting to murder thousands of people through their reckless actions.
“The three circulated a banner on social media headed: ‘Thursday, December 31, 6pm to 6am.’ They overlooked the curfew and invited over 22 artists to perform,” Reza said in aggravation.
He said the gig in the open space outside the Matapi Flats was a Covid-19 super spreader event.
“The curfew is not something unique in Zimbabwe. Every country in the world is on different stages of lockdown. While the people with rightful senses are in government’s lane, there are others advocating for the spread of the virus,” Reza charged.
“Mbare is a death trap where people are likely to contract the disease without fault as they are unable to fumigate the area due to their low-income levels. The court must adopt the principle of justice of fire: anyone who touches fire will be burnt. A message must be sent to all like-minded people that you don’t risk people’s lives in this manner. The offenders should be burnt.”
He went on to suggest a custodial sentence and a fine of Z$400,000 for each man.
The trio, in mitigation, pleaded for leniency saying they had learnt their lesson and were sorry for their actions.
Their lawyer Dumisani Mthombeni said his clients intend to approach the health ministry with a proposal in which they want to promote Covid-19 awareness as ambassadors.
But Reza said their intention to become ambassadors is a little too late.
“What they did is akin to attempted murder, the seriousness of their offence must be reflected in the sentence,” he said.
The three were charged with one count of partaking and convening a public gathering during a national lockdown in contravention of section 5(3)(a) of the Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention and Containment) Regulations of Statutory Instrument 77 of 2020.
They begged for mercy.
“They are extremely remorseful and have offered their most sincere apologies to the police and nation at large. They are also extending the apology to the court,” said Mthombeni.
He said the three assisted the police by dispersing the crowd adding that other party attendees had paid fines for the same offence.
“It would be dangerous for the court to sentence them differently from how other offenders were treated,” the lawyer argued.
“They are intending to assist the government as ambasaadors through arts in conscientising the nation to comply with government’s efforts to combat the pandemic.
“The court should assist the offenders by not breaking them but give them a sentence that will help rehabilitate them.”
They offered to pay a fine and do community service at Matapi Police Station.
Magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti presided.
On Monday, police suspended four officers from Matapi Police Station.
A police statement said Superintendent Innocent Makumbe, the officer in charge of Matapi Police Station Inspector Garikai Jiyane, duty officer Nyarai Gunhe, and duty member Vengai Mupamhanga “did not perform their duties in according to police set standards and the government’s Covid-19 regulations in handling the illegal Mbare musical bash.”