3 years, no board for Arts council

HARARE - Arts and Culture practitioners are up in arms with their ministry over its failure to appoint a board over the last three years with some sectors mooting a demonstration against the responsible minister.

Theatre producer and director of Rooftop Promotions Daves Guzha said as artists they felt short changed. “We are planning a demonstration against the ministry’s failure to appoint a board over the years.”

Controversial playwright Cont Mhlanga said the last time the sector had a real functioning board was seven years ago and since then there hasn’t been any.

He said while the appointment of a board is the responsibility of the minister; he blames the arts and culture ministry’s principal director Paul Damasane and secretary Thoko Chitepo for the mess as ministers have always been changing while they remain in their posts.

“We cannot blame the minister or even the Nacz director but like I have always said; the two people at the forefront – the principal director and the ministry’s secretary – have no idea when it comes to running the arts.

“Damasane in particular is in a wrong platform because the Church where he belongs and arts, culture will not go hand in hand. We are a cursed sector. We need practical people to those two posts, people who understand the arts and culture, not just academics,” said Mhlanga.

Asked why there was no board, Damasane was not committal saying that it was not his responsibility to appoint a board. “The appointment is done by the minister, get hold of him and he will tell you about the appointments.

“I do not work directly with the board but with the Nacz director.”

Playwright Mhlanga believes the only minister who had the zeal and knowledge of arts and culture was Senator David Coltart. “He tried to do a lot for the arts and culture sector and even appointed a board in 2013, but that board did not last because it fell off after he was replaced by Andrew Langa.

“Langa was too excited and could only address the cultural policy issues whose discussions are never finished.”

In 2013 Coltart appointed a new Nacz board in terms of Section 5 of the National Arts Council Act whose term was supposed to expire on July 7 2016.

The new board was appointed after wide consultations with various players in the arts and culture sector including relevant ministry officials,

The new board was supposed to be chaired by Nozipho Maraire and its members were Chipo Mutasa, Samm Monro, Raphael Khumalo Nomathemba Halimana, Jackie Cahi, Mercy Mushore, Oliver Mutukudzi, Phathisa Nyathi and Misheck Masamvu.

The appointed persons were drawn from varying backgrounds that include music, visual arts, culture, historians, administration, media, commercial, entertainment and film sector, among others.

Zimbabwe Film Trust director Nigel Munyati could only say about the Nacz: “A rudderless ship that is therefore more driven by an operations rather than strategic focus.”

An official with arts organisation Arterial Network Zimbabwe, Mandla Ncube said the absence of the Nacz board is shocking. “Three years and no board yet there is a dedicated ministry to deal with that sticking matter.

“I personally feel for Elvas Mari (Nacz director) who has survived these three years running the council without a board to give him direction and guidance.

“Our messages as Arterial Network Zimbabwe is clear, we demand that minister Ncube appoints a board with immediate effect. Appointing a Nacz board is his responsibility; hence the minister is sleeping on the job. The minister and all those tasked with the responsibility of developing the sector and creating a conducive environment to do business in the arts are letting down their appointing authority.”

Ncube added that it is time they shape in or find other jobs to do. “Clearly they are failing the sector. If a whole ministry fails to appoint a board for three years, one wonders when they will implement the many sticking issues haunting the sector.

“My message to the minister and his staff is clear, ‘wake up from your slumber’.”

Filmmaker Elton Mjanana said he remembers that “there was a board - a very diverse and appealing one - that Senator David Coltart, as Education Sports and Culture Minister appointed during the Government of National Unity days.

“Whatever must have happened to that board, beyond politics is a mystery. If they were devoured by political expediency then it is most regretful because we are yet to see the other side of this new coin.

“It is generally not healthy for Nacz to be operating outside of the guidance of a board - just for things like corporate governance.”

Writer Virginia Phiri said when she tried to find out about the board issue about two weeks ago, “one of the gurus told me that the board does exist but it is not active. I found that strange but I could not question any further. We hope one of these days’   artists and interested parties will be told what is going on. It is high time.”

Masvingo Youth Festival director Leeroy Gono said as it stands, Nacz is being run like a tuck-shop and not for the benefit of the artists.

“Because as it is the Nacz director and his team are running the organisation unchecked and this is killing the arts sector.

“We are demanding a board and it should be placed with immediate effect because even if we look at other arts councils like in South Africa you find that there is a big difference.”

Gono said while the Nacz wants arts institutions to practice good governance “they themselves are found wanting.”

Writer Stephen Chigorimbo said the board at Nacz has always been nominal. “The management does the work and gives the board a chance to make their input. Three years, without a board at all is too much.

“The Nacz is a very critical instrument in the promotion of the arts. It really should be much more active in arts development.”

He added that the continued absence of a film board is one such area where the Naczshould have pushed. “Zimbabwe is now way behind countries who became democracies long after us like South Africa and Namibia who have overtaken Zimbabwe.

“The appointment of a Nacz board is of utmost urgency. The least they could do was to extend the term of the last one.”

Playwright Raisedon Maya said this development reflects badly on the ministry shouldered with the running of the arts. “It also reflects on government’s position on the arts. They do not think it is an important department.

“As artists we should demand that a board be set up immediately.”

Musician Filbert Marova said while the Nacz has been running well despite having no board for the past three years, “it still important that a board should be put in place soon so that the development of the arts in the country becomes a shared responsibility and hopefully the new board is made up of members with the arts at heart, who appreciate their role as arts development advocates in Zimbabwe.”

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