Zim Asset ignores arts, sport, culture

HARARE - The minister responsible for sport, arts and culture, Andrew Langa should in the first 24 months of his office source for funds to invest in the arts sector because the money he was recently allocated by the ministry of Finance can only fund his staff’s pay slips.

Bulawayo playwright Cont Mhlanga believes Langa’s ministry of Sports, Arts and Culture was omitted from the new national economic agenda detailed in Zim Asset where the national vision is well spelt out.

“Langa’s ministry has been completely left out of the national economic agenda. All other ministries in government have been allocated clear key result areas in the outcomes and outputs of the cluster matrix excluding Langa’s ministry.

“This clearly means that the overall assumption of the Zim Asset plan is that sports arts and culture have no role to play in the nation’s guiding vision thus, ‘Towards an Empowered Society and a Growing Economy’,” said Mhlanga.

The playwright said such omission has a lot of complex implications for the next five years for the development and growth of sports, arts and culture sector in the country.

“The assumption by the liberation party Zanu PF, its politburo and its government is that sports arts and culture has no role to play in the turning around of the country’s economy and can never be an important pillar of the Zimbabwean economy.

“On this point the revolutionary party is wrong. Sports arts and culture can be a critical pillar of the Zimbabwean economy, more so now that the country faces challenges of liquidity to fuel its economic activity,” said Mhlanga.

Mhlanga said the challenge is that the country’s economists and its education is still stuck in old school economy textbooks and its economist commentators and advisors are a generation of old boys who grew up in Rhodesia’s cigarette economy of the fifties, sixties and seventies within a Rhodesian culture that the world was not interested in.

“The world economy is no longer in the fifties, sixties and seventies! Dump those old school textbooks and create new relevant ones that speak to the current situation of our local and global demands,” fumed Mhlanga.

He added that Langa’s ministry’s snub by Zim Asset as a non-event ministry has two implications for the minister and his ministry.

“The first is that the office of the President and Cabinet and that of the ministry responsible for finance who have been tasked with the responsibility of resource mobilisation and allocation to fund the Zim Asset cluster matrix will not put a cent of those resources to sports arts and culture as there are no outcomes and outputs to that effect.

“The second is that Langa is free to shoot to whatever direction he wants away from the Zim Asset plan as long as he remains within the five listed national government objectives for Zimbabwe,” said the playwright.

Langa has to therefore start mobilising and raising finance to support the development of sports arts and culture given the situation he has been thrust in.

“He should turn to the available talent, sports, arts and cultural infrastructure that he is minister of in his ministry. That is where cash is for this country and it is called the Creative Industries. There is more cash in our local talent than there is for the country at the World Bank or any other such institution.”

The playwright said if you take 30 talented footballers and throw them in a stadium just with a ball of air in 90 minutes you will collect more cash than what 30 A2 farmers will grow on their irrigated land in the whole year with all that hassle of costly inputs.

“If you place 20 talented musicians and dancers with guitars in a stadium you can make more cash in four hours than what you will do renting out houses or offices to 20 people for half-a-year.

“If you put two talented stone sculpture artists in a studio you can have cash in three days larger than it will take two small-scale miners half-a-year to make in the export market. A tone of maize makes around $300 and takes four months to grow and one mbira instrument makes that much cash and takes only two days at most to make with minimal input costs and labour.

“Zimbabwe’s national theatre assets have 27 000 seats going to waste, dilapidated and under used yet if you put talented actors, designers, dancers to provide content for the theatres and sale the same seat four times a day, the sector has a capacity to generate around $800 000 a day just from the box office revenue line alone. I need not go on to prove my point,” said Mhlanga.

The playwright urged Langa to focus on working with the nation’s leading talent to harvest the current available creative products, content, services and ideas pushing it for the export market and use the revenues to drive the growth of local consumption of the same content, products and services in the local market and pass some revenues to other ministries to use the revenues to support the local industry in promoting national competitiveness of our local products.

“Zimbabwe’s traditional arts, content and contemporary art has great export potential that can be taped to strengthen the creative industry.

“Our cultural expressions and traditional arts are being exported on a daily basis in large quantities through tourism for example and are not accounted for,” said Mhlanga.


Comments (1)

It is a fallacy to think that any ministry has been omitted from ZIM-ASSET.This notion is based on the view that the Agenda is "bank" rather that an expression of strategies for social and economic transformation. An member of the creative industry who indulges in directing the Minister of Culture instead of mobilizing players in that sector to understand the intention of ZIM_ASSET and to indicate what they can will effectively do to bring the results anticipated by the Agenda is not an asset to cultural sector but breeder of confusion . Hon Langa does not need directives but clear recommendations from the arts and culture sector on achieving the objectives of ZIM_ASSET. Mr. Mhlanga should write a comprehensive paper for the Minister's attention and that of stakeholders in the creative industry on what the Ministry and its parastatals should do to initiate actions that will drive benefit from the ZIM_ASSET plan. Starting the process of implementing the plan by pointing accusing fingers at the government, its plans a,d implementing agencies will not bring result Most of us in the arts and culture sector have welcomed Hon. Langa as a minister who not only listens but is ready to work closely with all those in the arts and culture sector to create an environment that develops viable creative and cultural industries. Admittedly he has a lot to learn about the critical features and characters of the sector especially on what is required to grown Zimbabwe's creative economy.

Tatenda Zunde - 13 January 2014

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