Diamond Platinumz is the biggest music export out of Tanzania in decades but you would not know that when you learn that nearly 20,000 of his compatriots have petitioned entertainment house BET to have the singer’s 2021 nomination rescinded.
African music curating platform Music Africa has reported that the signatories to the petition are growing by the day. If they would make any effect, these dissenting Tanzanians have about three weeks to go since the awards night comes on the 28th of June. But it is highly unlikely that BET will bow to the pressure.
The case these tens of thousands of Tanzanians have taken with Platinumz has to do with the singer’s very public friendliness with the erstwhile government of John Magufuli. The African Beauty hitmaker is said to have expressively utilized the influence that came with the anointing he received from Magufuli’s presidency.
Accompanying the petition was the citation:
Diamond Platnumz is a world-renowned Tanzanian artist who used his popularity and his talent to whitewash and deodorise the brutal repression of the late dictator John Magufuli and his regime…In 2020, despite a huge outcry locally and internationally against Magufuli and his regime, Diamond endorsed this brutal dictator, dedicated a song to him (‘Magufuli Baba Lao’) and several times took to stage with him during the campaign.
The politics at the heart of the matter is clear. One could read into the petition, the buoyant confidence of a crowd that wants its voice heard after the death of a man who political observers agreed was an authoritative leader. It is highly unlikely that the petition would have been organized while Magufuli was alive. And perhaps, that points to the anger with the multi-award-winning singer who is yet to issue a comment on what is prevailing.
The group behind this petition is calling itself Change Tanzania. The group’s accusations against Platinumz do not end at his support for the Magufuli presidency but it also has to do with his lack of support for fellow entertainers who were found to have fallen foul of power. One of these entertainers is Idris Sultan.
A comedian who was a winner of the reality show Big Brother Africa, Sultan was held by police after laughing at an old picture of President Magufuli in a video he shared online. His lawyer Benedict Ishabakaki told the BBC that Sultan is accused of contravening the Cybercrimes Act 2015 against cyberbullying.
The law for which the comedian was arrested states: “A person shall not initiate or send any electronic communication using a computer system to another person with intent to coerce, intimidate, harass or cause emotional damage.”
Platinumz is only one of the hundreds of African musicians who curry favor with the political elites in their countries. While they seek to maintain a relationship with partisan fanbases thereby guaranteeing an audience, these musicians also stand to gain materially from such associations. In return, politicians are humanized by these relationships and presented as lovable.