South African pop group Freshleyground, has been banned from playing in Zimbabwe

Freshlyground on stage with Shakira at the World Cup closing ceremony

The South African pop group Freshleyground, which collaborated with Shakira on the 2010 World Cup anthem, has been banned from performing in Zimbabwe over their Mugabe-mocking song Chicken to Change. The video shows the Mugabe literally transforming into a chicken. Puppet versions of some South African political figures, such as Jacob Zuma, Nelson Mandela, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, also make cameo appearances.

Freshlyground, who recorded the offical tournament song Waka Waka (This Time for Africa), were not told why Zimbabwe revoked their work permits.

But their singer Zolani Mahola thinks it has something to do with their video for song Chicken To Change, which features on their latest album.

It shows President Mugabe cruising in his limousine, uncaring of people’s suffering until Zolani sings for change in Zimbabwe and the Mugabe puppet transforms into a cowering chicken.

Ridiculing Mugabe is illegal in Zimbabwe. Disrespectful gestures towards his car can result in arrest and it’s common for people to be briefly locked up for insulting the president.

Some band members have been questioning whether to boycott Zimbabwe, he said. Now the choice has been taken from them.

Mahola said the band’s Zimbabwean fans had applauded Chicken To Change.

“Somebody has said something for them,” she said.

“We have to be able to speak. You have to be able to have a voice.”

Bandmate Simon Attwell said Freshlyground performed in Zimbabwe in 2008, when the ballots were being counted in a vote Mugabe seemed certain to lose.

“It felt like change was in the air,” said Attwell.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won that election, but not by enough to avoid a run-off.

Mr Tsvangirai then dropped out, citing attacks against his supporters, and Mugabe was declared the winner.

Eventually he was forced by South Africa and other neighbouring countries to form a unity government with Mr Tsvangirai.

But it has foundered, and there are fears elections expected next year will only bring more violence.

Attwell said when Freshlyground returned to Zimbabwe after 2008, “there was a palpable air of dejection”.

Here is the video.

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