8 December 2012

Zimbabwe: 'Jack Sparrow' Comes to Zimbabwe

The Johnny Depp character in the blockbuster franchise "Pirates of the Caribbean" has become famous world over for his portrayal of a swashbuckling buccaneer in the productions.

But he is not the only Jack Sparrow of note.

Zimbabweans will know of another Jack Sparrow, a shadowy character who has apparently made a mint pirating movies and offloading them on the market in their tens of thousands.

Pirated copies of local and international music and DVDs are dropped off at different points in the CBD and in Mbare Musika for bulk buyers at a price of 50 cents or R5 per copy.

The copies include old movies and music or the latest films on the market.

And the choice of name is not accidental. Zimbabwe's Jack Sparrow is a real pirate, more real than the Johnny Depp character.

Piracy, which is unauthorised reproduction or manufacturing of material protected by copyright and dealing with such copies for distribution and sale, is an enormous problem and Zimbabwe is no exception to the scourge.

Investigations by the Saturday Lifestyle revealed that Jack Sparrow is a Chinese dude who is as elusive as a needle in a haystack. But he uses some youngsters as fronts.

The offices at Nhaka Parade which they used to operate from have become deserted as they seek to move to a new location around Fife Avenue shops.

A guy only identified as Craig told Saturday Lifestyle that his "boss" was unreachable as he didn't have a mobile phone.

He, however, promised to set up a meeting with the Chinese guy whose CD plant is believed to be somewhere in Borrowdale.

"He sometimes passes through these offices but he does not stay for long. The best I can do is to get your numbers so that I will call you once he comes in," he said.

Craig admitted that they didn't have a licence to "burn" CDs which they download from the internet.

On allegations that they "break into ZOL bandwidth" when downloading movies, Craig said they only downloaded movies from their offices. He failed to get back to us at the time of going to print.

David Behr, the managing director of ZOL, could not be reached for comment.

Polisile Ncube, the director of Zimbabwe Music Rights Association, a collecting association, said they were aware of Jack Sparrow and his runners.

"We have discovered that there are little Jack Sparrows in Harare and when we try and arrest them it is the big Jack Sparrow who bails them out.

"Obviously Jack Sparrow does exist but he is not the one who does the distribution of the DVDs and CDs instead he uses runners. The question is who is Jack Sparrow? Some say he is Japanese, others say he is Chinese and others say he is Lebanese but having said that we have not yet come across Jack Sparrow," she said.

Harare Province Officer Commanding Licence Inspectorate, Joel Shasha Tenderere, said the war against piracy could only be won with help from the public.

He, however, confirmed the existence of Jack Sparrow but said they didn't have the faintest idea of who he was.

"As the police we rely on information from the public so far the information we got led us to people who purported to be Jack Sparrow when they are not.

"If there is anyone with information that can lead us to Jack Sparrow we will be happy to not only reduce piracy but also bring culprits to book," he said.

It appears police and several other anti-piracy organisations are fighting a losing battle as many more "Jack Sparrows" are emerging such as Kung Fu Panda, Rockers Mix and Mazoo.

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