Zimbabwe’s best-known pole dancer has been arrested and fined for showing “over-excitement” in her shows.
Police said Beverly Sibanda had breached the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act during raunchy shows in clubs in the capital, Harare, last week.
Amateur film showed eager patrons jumping on stage to dance alongside Ms Sibanda, 23, in contravention of her performer’s licence. She was picked up by police on Tuesday and spent a night in the cells before appearing in court in Harare. Prosecutors had called for a jail sentence for the mother of one.
“Bev”, as her fans call her, was last year named one of the 100 most influential young Zimbabweans, alongside several financial specialists, two extremely rich prophets, and a ruling Zanu-PF party legal adviser.
Ms Sibanda heads a scantily clad dance troupe called the Sexy Angels and is popular among Zimbabwean males for her highly suggestive pole dances.
Many were disappointed when she announced out of the blue in February that she was giving up pole-dancing and turning to the church – and taking her troupe with her. It was headline news for several days.
Ms Sibanda was photographed looking sombre and conservatively dressed, in stark contrast to the skimpy outfits she normally wears. She announced then she would open a clothes shop in Harare with support from a local prophet, importing clothes from Dubai.
But Ms Sibanda’s dancers soon complained they were “starving” and financial pressures appear to have quickly curtailed her new career.
Last week’s shows were said to be her first since she returned to pole-dancing, and state prosecutor Francesca Mukumbiri said she showed “over-excitement” in her performances, according to a report in the state-controlled Chronicle newspaper. “There is no justification for her over-excitement during her shows and her excuses do not hold water,” Ms Mukumbiri said.
Ms Sibanda’s lawyer said bouncers at the events were at fault because they did not control the frantic crowds. He said: “Her fans were overjoyed to see her on stage after her non-appearance for some time and some of them were drunk and would jump on stage to welcome their queen of dance.”
Magistrate Donald Ndirowei gave her the option of a fine of about £60 or two months in jail.
The dancer’s arrest appears to have been sparked by a row over street performances during the just-ended Harare Carnival.
Traditional chiefs and some Zimbabweans argued that the costumes of a troupe of Brazilian samba dancers were indecent and offended public morals. Tourism minister Walter Mzembi defended the visiting performers, pointing out that Ms Sibanda’s performances were much more provocative.
In court, Ms Mukumbiri said: “She might say that … she was copying the Brazilians, but the accused must know that she is a Zimbabwean not a Brazilian, hence she should abide by the rules and laws.”
Zimbabwe’s Censorship Board keeps a close eye on Ms Sibanda and her rival Zoey Sifelani, whose troupe is called the Red Angels. Both were arrested and held overnight in 2012 after pictures of them in skimpy costumes appeared in the press. The pair have a long-running and very public feud.