After threat of jail, Maphorisa and Kabza De Small leave Zimbabwe

BULAWAYO – Top South African DJs Kabza De Small and Maphorisa left Zimbabwe on Monday after shelling out US$18,400 (about R315,000) to avoid arrest for failing to perform at a festival in Victoria Falls in April, despite pocketing booking fees.

A court ordered the duo’s arrest hours before they staged a show in Bulawayo on Sunday night.

When the award-winning Amapiano kingpins flew into Bulawayo on Sunday afternoon with a delegation of seven – among them was the celebrity lawyer Katlego Malatji.

The Scorpion Kings, as they are known, feared a sting in the tail after they accepted a booking to perform at Queens Cricket Ground, housing Boundary nightclub. Their instincts were on the money.

Once they got off the stage at the break of dawn on Monday, Malatji had some really bad news. The High Court had issued on order for their immediate arrest and incarceration at the local prison.

The source of this dramatic development was a failure by the two artists to perform at the Victoria Falls Carnival in April, where they were the headline act. Organisers said the festival suffered a major dent to its reputation and pursued the two artists for a full refund (performance fees, air tickets, hotel bookings) and a public apology to the festival goers.

In a statement in May, the Carnival organisers said Maphorisa and Kabza showed “total disregard for the contract.”

After the rancour in the e-mail back-and-forth and threats of legal action, the two Amapiano pioneers anticipated trouble in Zimbabwe, but even they could not have imagined a court ordering law enforcement agents to “deliver them to the keeper of the Gaol at Bulawayo Prison, … there to be safely kept until they are served with the summons against them issued by the High Court in Bulawayo for a claim in the sum of US$18,395.82, or have provided security in the sum of US$18,395.82 to the Sheriff of the High Court in Bulawayo, whichever occurs first.”

Their detention in jail, the court said, was to keep them within its jurisdiction until the claim by the Victoria Falls Carnival organisers was satisfactorily disposed of.

Local lawyer Zibusiso Ncube, who was engaged by Malatji, explained that the effect of the High Court ruling was to “attach their persons.”

“My clients are from outside the jurisdiction of this court. So what the Victoria Falls Carnival organisers have done is to confirm the jurisdiction of this court. There are ways of doing that, if there is immovable property you can attach it but in this case there’s no property so what was being attached are the persons, to arrest the persons so as to confirm the jurisdiction,” Ncube said.

The options, Ncube said, was that the two DJs would stay in jail until the matter was resolved “or they pay security in a specified amount provided by the court, which is to say they will stand trial if required by the court.”

Immigration officers, police and the Sheriff of the High Court all camped outside the Holiday Inn hotel at various times, as the two performers remained holed-up inside, unsure of their fate.

One insider told ZimLive: “An idea was broached to Maphorisa that the borders are porous, and it was possible to get them into Botswana. He dismissed the idea out of hand. He said he was an international brand and if the issue was money, he would pay – and he decided then to make the transfer to a South African bank account of a Zimbabwean businessman who in turn paid US$18,395.82 to the Sheriff.”

Just three hours before the 4.15PM flight to Johannesburg was to take off, Ncube told the two stars that they were cleared to leave after the Sheriff received their deposit, paid by a local gold dealer and nightclub owner.

Fingers crossed … Kabza De Small and Maphorisa appeared stressed out in the departure lounge at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport on September 19, 2022

“They have not accepted any liability. This is just to give this court jurisdiction,” Ncube said. “The court has to determine that claim (by Victoria Falls Carnival organisers), that hasn’t been determined. This payment is just security, to say we will stand trial. We will deal with all those issues in court. It’s going to take time.”

If the matter went to trial, the lawyer said, Maphorisa and Kabza De Small would be required to attend court.

Ncube said the two men were “stressed” by the situation, calling it a normal response by anyone in their situation.

“Liberty is a fundamental right, and when it’s fettered with naturally you’re stressed,” the lawyer said.

This is not the first time a foreign performer has run into trouble in Zimbabwe for failing to refund promoters after not turning up.

In 2015, singer NaakMusiq was grabbed from the Rainbow Hotel in Bulawayo while sipping champagne with friends for failing to perform at a local nightclub three years earlier, despite being paid in advance.

The singer was forced to refund Club Forty 40 owner Dumisani Mutorerwa in the discomfort of Bulawayo Central Police Station where he spent two hours. NaakMusiq has been back to perform in Zimbabwe since.

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