By Keith Moyo and Kudakwashe Takundwa
Thursday the 15th of November came with yet another consultative meeting organized by the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation. As anticipated strategies and a way forward for these portfolios were what we had gathered for. Artistes failed to hide their disgruntlement towards what has become a monotonous discourse gathering.
Meetings, Meetings and more meetings have been the story about the Ministry in charge of the Arts since 2013 and nothing tangible has come out it. These consultative meetings feel like a dog barking at a floating log, believing that it will transform into a crocodile.
The most saddening thing before anything else is that in the past 38 years, the Arts portfolio has been tossed around like how relatives to do to an unwanted orphan. Since 1980, the arts have been moved around ministries, beginning with the Sports, Recreation and Culture ministry, when Ernest Kadungure was at the helm. It then moved to the Education, Sports, Arts and Culture portfolio under Fay Chung. From then onwards, it was removed from the education sector and went to the Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture ministry. It was again moved to the Rural Development, Preservation and Promotion of Culture and Heritage, before it eventually resuscitated as the current Ministry of Youth,Sports, Arts and Recreation.
In the past five years the ministry with the arts portfolio has held 4 consultative meetings resonating on the same points. First when Andrew Langa as the Minister of Sports, Arts and culture, came in he was invited for a culture tour which aimed at being a greet and meet with the artists so as to share the frustrations their faced within the industry. However this “meet and greet” later turned into a war of words between him and arts guru Cont Mhlanga. Guaranteed those present still remember the words “Take your boys and go. We’ve been toiling the whole day preparing for your visit and then you don’t have time for us and you want to go. You might as well leave,”. Coming all the way from Harare, the minister did not have the time to listen to what the artist had to say. It was rather a wasted trip and government resources. This for us, was the first of many signs of how the arts sector was nothing but a waste of time to people in charge of it.
Secondly in 2015 there was Makhosini Hlongwane who also held his own consultative meetings. Issues and grievances were raised but solutions from the top were never heard. In 2017 Kazembe Kazembe and team also met the same fate. However it is important to notice that both did not last long in the ministry to make an effective contribution to the portfolio. This might be their scapegoat.
What most might have not noticed is that the arts portfolio had no direct ministry during the Government of National Unity from 2009 to 2013. It fell under the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, assuming that it was a sub section of the culture portfolio.
Currently we have Kirsty Coventry led Ministry of Youth, Sports ,Arts and Recreation, but they are already faced with a frustrated, tired and angry artist, who has always raised the same points at these same consultative meetings, with nothing tangible coming out. For example the pertinent issue of service providers that were not paid for the services rendered during the 2014 African Union Sports Council Region V Youth Games held in Bulawayo. This issue four years later has been not been resolved. A WHOLE THREE MINISTERS have FAILED to DEAL with such a MINUTE matter which continued to HAUNT our beloved Ministry. How then are arts, sports and the youths fraternities expected to build a trustworthy relationship with they major stakeholder?
The only questions we have for the current Ministry are;
- Where are the points/grievances that were raised in the three previous consultative meetings?
- How invalid are these points/grievances to the current situation, seeing we needed another consultative meeting to discuss strategy?
- Where is the culture policy document that was initially the brain child of Andrew Langa? Arts stakeholders claim they have seen nothing of it. We commend Andrew Langa for spearheading the formulation of the “mythological” culture policy that very few know or have a hold of.
- Will they ever be a stand-alone arts ministry?
One thing that our leaders have totally neglected is how the arts has a potential of being a million, if not a multi- billion dollar industry when run effectively. Take for example the South African arts in 2014 contributed over 90.5 Billion Rands (2.9% of the GDP In 2013-2014).This was exceeding the contribution of Agriculture to the economy (2.2%). It is also imperative to take note of the fact that the South African cabinet has been consistent with the Ministry of Arts and Culture portfolio since 1994 up until now hence giving it time,effort, investment and human resources input for it to grow. It continues to flourish due to consistency and respect that it has been attributed. That is all we ask for; be consistent and respect this sector.
In the words of Matesu Dube “don’t look for us when we are wanted for gala performances or airport welcome dances”. Think of the artists as professional people trying their level best to professionalise and monetise the arts into a self sustaining sector. We are tired of donor funding. We are tired of going to foreign lands to bask in order to feed our families.
Finally if the minister can; may she divorce politics from all associations under her jurisdiction. These associations have plagued by politicians who continue to bleed them off any progress achievable. An open secret is that politics has corrupted and caused a cancerous affair within the associations. The downfall of these fraternities inevitable means the downfall of the ministry in itself, hence it should not be allowed.
In conclusion, what we have to say is that, up until today this consultative meetings have bought no difference. The only difference has been the lunch ratings. So far Makhosini’s lunch was the best and Kazembe’s the worst. But to be politically correct we liked yours as well Hon. Kirsty Coventry and Yeukai Simbanegavi (In case they read this).
Pictures by @SaDee_lensworks