Fears abound that the United States-based Senegalese R&B singer could face problems with the Immigration Department because of his previous criminal convictions.

According to the Immigration Act, someone who was once convicted of a specified crime, regardless of where this was, is prohibited from entering Zimbabwe unless special arrangements have been made.

Some of the offences cited include treason, sedition of public violence, rape, theft, fraud, robbery and dealing in or being in possession of dangerous or habit-forming drugs or being in possession of any pipes or other utensils used in connection with the smoking of such drugs.

Akon, whose real name is Alliuane Badara Thiam, spent five years in prison — six months on drug charges, 18 months for auto theft and three years for armed robbery.

In December 2007, Akon was arraigned in the town of Fishkill Court on charges of endangering the welfare of a minor, a misdemeanor, and second degree harassment and a violation. He has since rehabilitated himself to become a role model for youths.

Previously, some musicians who were convicted in their country for various offences have performed in Zimbabwe after the organisers held talks with the Immigration Department.

Under such circumstances, the department would give Akon a “special dispensation” status.

A spokesperson for the organisers said: “We have written a letter to the Immigration Department about the issue and everything is above board.

“Akon is coming to Zimbabwe and one of his requirements was that we advertise the show two months in advance and as you are aware we have done that. We have also done the same in Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana and Zambia.

“On the other hand, I am also waiting for his band members to submit their names and passport numbers. The concert will go on as scheduled,” the spokesperson said.

Assistant Regional Immigration Officer Evans Siziba yesterday confirmed that any person who has previous convictions would be deported.

“As a department somebody who is a criminal or once convicted of a specified crime is prohibited from entering the country,” he said.

The spokesperson said the launch of the show where all stakeholders would be briefed on the direction, design and scope of the concert will be held next week in Harare.

Siziba confirmed that the organisers of the concert had approached the department on the issue and were dealing with it. Akon is likely to be granted a “special status” by the department to stage his concert.

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