Cont's big fight with Arts minister Langa

HARARE - Controversial playwright and writer Cont Mhlanga’s big fight with Arts and Culture minister Andrew Langa continues after he last week embarrassed the minister who was on a tour of Amakhosi Arts Centre where he is director.   

Langa got a rude awakening from Mhlanga after the minister’s aides indicated that the minister would only make a brief stop at Amakhosi Arts Centre instead of a complete tour of the facility.

The minister’s officials had reportedly said their boss, who was touring arts facilities in Bulawayo was behind schedule; hence he was in a rush.

An enraged Mhlanga ordered the minister and his officials to immediately leave the premises, telling him that he was surrounded by inept advisors.

“It is sick that your so-called principal directors have been in office for more than 10 years and yet they have never set foot at Amakhosi. What advice are they going to give you?” asked Mhlanga in full view of journalists and television crews who managed to capture the heated exchanges between the two men. The minister eventually gave in and toured this facility.

Mhlanga, who was in tears as he confronted Langa, is among senior artistes within the arts and culture sector who believe Langa is clueless on the way forward as regards this sector.

This week, in another show-down with the ministry, Mhlanga urged National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, (NACZ) organisers of the two-day 2014 Arts Indaba set for this month in Bulawayo, not to focus on the arts and culture sector as the past Indabas had done but to zero in on the ministry of Arts and Culture itself.

“Speeches and seminars are not the work but are tools to do the work. If the work remains undone after all the speeches and the seminars then there is no need for these speeches and seminars.”

He said he could not attend an Indaba to listen to what “I have heard before or talk about things we have been talking about in the past Indabas that never get implemented,” Mhlanga wrote to NACZ after they had invited him to attend the Indaba set for October 29 and 30.

The playwright said during the 2013 Indaba, Arts and Culture minister Langa, the permanent secretary Thoko Chitepo, the ministry’s principal director Rev Damasane and a senior director in the ministry came to address the Indaba in Harare and none of what they said they would do had been done.

“Just go back to their speeches. Now you are inviting me to come again this year to listen to the same speeches and a promise from our ministry officials — the difference now being that it is at a Bulawayo hotel!”

Mhlanga said the Indaba was the ministry, hence officials and the captains of the creative industries should lock themselves up for the two days to listen to the ministry leadership and deliberate to agree or disagree on several issues among them what the ministry does. “We want to deliberate on the ministry’s five-year strategic direction is, by which they will contribute to the government priorities for the creative industries; key roles and responsibilities of the ministry’s senior management; funding models for Zimbabwe’s arts, culture and heritage sectors across its wide spectrum; present the ministry’s key national arts, culture and heritage projects for the next five years; present adopted frameworks for sustainable national arts, culture and heritage policies and present a list of required cultural legislation.”

Mhlanga said legislation and law on culture is the body of law, including domestic and foreign law, and multilateral treaties and conventions that regulate the and is applied to artists, fine art and cultural property.

“The rights of authors, inventors, scientists, engineers, and artists must be protected by Acts. There should be several laws regarding the arts and culture, cultural heritage and history (including religion) and cultural industries.

“Zimbabwe desperately needs an Arts and Culture Promotion Act among several other acts.)

The playwright said if the 2014 Arts Indaba will focus on providing the ministry with the platform to engage us on the above points “that I have raised then I will be present to listen and participate.

“If however the ministry will not find any reason to make time to present its work to us and leave us by ourselves to run a useless talk show about what we think they should be doing for the sector then there is no point what-so-ever in holding the arts Indaba except that there is some useless free money from other governments to burn at some posh hotel.”

He reminded the NACZ that in 2012 they held an Indaba in Masvingo and none of the Ministry officials were there. “They did not bother to attend.”

He added: “The directors of the Ministry decided to attend international seminars outside the country, just an excuse to go out there and have a nice time if you ask me as up to today we have not seen what they learnt out there help shape our sector.

“In the 2013 Arts Indaba held in Harare they all came and gave opening speeches and left as they claimed to have no time to be at the Indaba.”

He said the directors who remained behind presented some shallow papers on the sector that left everyone wondering if these were really sector directors or some high school student presenters.

“The presentations from the officials from ZTA and the local government left us all with envy and wishing if those officials where our ministry officials! They were clearer and elaborate on what needed to be done to uplift our sector than the shallow egoistic presentation from our own sector managers.”

Mhlanga said at the past five Arts Indabas, the same resolutions had been made over and over and none were ever implemented.

“The reason cited for this was that the sector needed a standalone ministry to lead it in the implementation of the resolutions from the Arts Indabas.

“The President has since responded to our call for the stand alone ministry and so the logical thing to do would be to have an arts Indaba where this new ministry engages us fully on their

structure and work plan for the next five years as I have broken it down in the seven points above. Only then can I take this coming Indaba seriously and make time for it.”

Comments (7)

Cont you are a man! Zimbabwe is missing people of your calibre. For a long time these politicians have taken us for fools.Let us show them that things have changed. Let us claim our dignity.For a start people should refuse to shout those meaningless slogans.

jaku - 14 October 2014

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Mhlanga tells it as it is.

machakachaka - 15 October 2014

thats good conte but yuo are expecting too much from nonperformers. the minister can not even make a meaningful speech on arts so what more on a development plan shame.......

hezvoko - 15 October 2014

Ha Hezvoko seriously, following Grace's speeches then what is he still doing in that ministry? to be piggy-backed by the President? NO NO NO we no longer want him!

UNCLE REAL - 16 October 2014


SHIBOBO - 16 October 2014

Cont, excellent thoughts. The minister is clueless on how the ministry is being run. Recently a very important tender was issued to a South African company is direct defiance of the tenets of ZimAsset. It seems that officials in this ministry are all not qualified to run this ministry as evidenced by the ICT tender which could have been easily accomplished by local firms. I am not surprised that in the other division Arts and Culture worse is even happening. This minister and his people are all clueless and they should all be relieved of their jobs. I think its time for this mediocrity to be chucked out and for good!

Johnson Shava - 18 October 2014

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