The Freshly Ground Scandal at Switch On HIFA 2014


One of the main attractions at this year’s Harare International Festival of the Arts was no doubt the closing ceremony which was supposed to be done by the South African Afro-fusion band – Freshlyground. People knew about this performance weeks before HIFA had even started; and tickets were selling like hot cakes!

And what happens Sunday morning? Rumours about the group’s probable failure to perform start spreading like wildfire. Sunday Mail and a few online publications had the story, but we were all still hopeful that they were just rumours. But then, the HIFA organizers had not gotten full approval from the Ministries responsible by the time they started advertising Freshly Ground.

This is what perplexes me the most. Even if I am no event manager, I would think its common sense not to advertise an act you are not sure will be there! And then to even go on to sell tickets??? For US$25 too??? I do not know whether to call it faith, arrogance or plain stupidity. Stupidity is probably high up on that list though because check, the group was denied entry into the country not too long back, now if taking that into consideration and the Ministries take up to when HIFA had even started without approving entry, why would they still think Freshlyground would be allowed entry this time around???

Zimbabweans being Zimbabweans though would not be deterred by such news. Harare Gardens was still packed by the time the final show was scheduled. Whether it was still hope that Freshlyground will miraculously appear (we do seem to have miracle happenings in abundance in this country), or confidence that the contingency show promised will be worth US$25 I do not know. I can tell you though that I am glad I did not use my ticket. Sure what was done wasn’t too bad, but not too bad isn’t what I’m looking for when I buy a US$25 ticket for a show!!!

I can’t really complain about the whole HIFA, just that the finale is what we were all looking forward to!!!! And botching it up like that was just plain armature for a festival that has been around for so long.


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