The Sunday News
Vincent Gono, Features Editor
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has promised Government support and removal of bureaucratic bottlenecks and red tape that are stalking the arts industry.
The move is meant to create a conducive operating environment that guarantees revenue generation and ease of doing business in the sector.
Speaking at the launch of the National Arts, Culture and Heritage Policy in Bulawayo yesterday, President Mnangagwa also said it was unfortunate that some funds that were disbursed for the implementation of devolution which was aimed at dealing with bureaucracy in the provinces were returned to Treasury as they could not be utilised. He pleaded with provinces to make use of the devolution funds.
The President said he was impressed by the clarity of thinking in the arts industry about which he admitted to have little knowledge of and directed that a one-stop desk be set under the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation to handle all bureaucratic requirements associated with foreign artistes who may want to visit and perform in the country.
“You spoke of red tape where foreign artistes are invited and managers from outside Harare are forced to come to Harare for a week to sort out the documentation. A new desk must be set up like a one-stop shop where artistes do everything under one roof while they are drinking tea,” said President Mnangagwa.
He also threw his weight behind the idea of declaring Bulawayo the National Cultural Capital and okayed the submission that the first National Cultural Festival be held in the city subject to recommendations by the Minister of Youths, Sport, Arts and Recreation Kirsty Coventry in Cabinet. The National Cultural Festival is expected to charter a new trajectory in the arts.
“You have submitted that you want Bulawayo — the City of Kings and Queens to be the cultural hub of the country, I have no problem with that, it is up to Minister Coventry to make such recommendations to Government,” he said.
The President urged the Ministry of Higher Education, Innovation, Science and Technology to incorporate requirements of Creative Cultural Industries (CCI) in their innovation hubs and requested greater clarity on operationalisation of the hubs.
Responding to the issue of local content that was raised by artistes, the President urged the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Hon Monica Mutsvangwa, to enforce the 75 percent local content provisions.
“The 75 percent local content is incorporated in the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA). It is a law that requires that radio stations play 75 percent local content. It’s there but must be enforced, it must be implemented,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said a chamber would be constituted as requested by the artists which would be a thinking and lobbying platform for matters related to or affecting the CCIs.
He called for the lowering of fees for performers from outside the country saying high fees were restrictive and not good for the arts business saying he would like to see an extension of the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra to the arts sector.
“I got interested in this idea of the arts industry uniting the nation through dance. This is soft power for bringing unity, harmony and stability in the country. Restrictive fees therefore mean less people and less money. I recommend the lowering of fees for foreign artistes,” said President Mnangagwa.
On stolen national artefacts, the President said a list of the artefacts were supposed to be compiled so that the Ministries of Justice (Legal and Parliamentary Affairs) and Foreign Affairs (and International Trade) ensure their retrieval and return to the country from wherever they were.
He said the time was past for artistes from the country to make names outside because of lack of support from the Government and asked artistes where they have been all along and why they waited all the while to have their voices heard.
The President invited the three groups who performed at the event which were Jeys Marabini and his Kozekulunge Band, Birwa Community of Gwanda District and Bolamba to State House for more performances and promised to join in the dance.
“I would like to invite Bolamba, Birwa and Jeys Marabini to State House and I have dinner with them. Vandinakidza. I can’t invite everyone because the State House is small. I would have loved them to all come.”
“When the youngsters are singing and dancing, for a moment you completely forget about the problems in the country,” said the President.
He left the house in stitches when he said he was a bit reluctant to attend the launch because he had a misconstrued perception of the artists. On requests for diplomatic passports, the President said artists should refine their request on who in the industry should be favoured with the privilege. He also attacked piracy saying it was the greatest threat to the success of CCIs and amendments for stiffer penalties exceeding the two years currently in place were supposed to be lobbied for.
The launch was attended by Cabinet Ministers, senior Government officials, stakeholders in the arts sector and artistes.