Artists pin hope on new govt

HARARE - Zimbabwean artists from various sectors have been sucked into the euphoria engulfing the nation in the aftermath of President Robert Mugabe’s resignation on Tuesday.

As excited as they are by Mugabe’s demise, the artists are keen to put pressure on the about-to-be-installed government to recognise their sector’s economic potential.

Hollywood-based Zimbabwean actress Sibongile “Sibo” Mlambo, who has featured in movies such as Message from the King, Black Sails and Last Face, has hailed the extraordinary unity that forced Mugabe to throw in the towel.

“This weekend, for the first time, I saw my fellow Zimbos come together regardless of political affiliation and march in solidarity without the fear of police retaliation or violence. They marched for all of us. I thank you. Today, it is done. The Mugabe era is over,” Mlambo wrote on Instagram.

Mari hit-maker Dereck Mpofu is optimistic that Mugabe’s resignation will spawn a better standing on the global map for Zimbabwe.

“When travelling around the world people would look at me with pity when I told them I am from Zimbabwe. Never again,” he wrote on Facebook.

For most artists though, Mugabe’s departure offers a platform for the incoming government to make the arts sector an integral part of the Zimbabwean economy.

Award-winning writer Virginia Phiri wants to see the incoming government adopting policies that will enable the arts to contribute to the fiscus.

“The new government has to recognise and appreciate that every aspect of life including governance wheels are greased by arts. As we all now know that arts boost GDPs in first world countries. Let us have appropriate policies and resources to let artists create in a free environment,” Phiri told the Daily News.

Youth Cultural Arts Festival (Yocaf) founder and director Leeroy Gono concurs with Phiri.

“They should now take the arts industry seriously and invest in it. It is an industry that is pregnant with potential of contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in a big way. Look at what the artists have achieved without government backing,” Gono said.

Actor Daves Guzha would like the incoming government to put the creative industries at the centre of human development

Zimbabwe Business and Arts Hub chairperson Takemore Mazuruse also shares the same view.

“We have countries whose GDP relies on the arts industry and it is our hope that the new government will invest in the arts sector. Airwaves must be freed so that we have plurality in the sector. This will help improve competition and quality in the process ensuring investor confidence in local arts.

“Vices like piracy must be heavily dealt with. Events of the past few weeks have shown that where there is a will there is a way and we hope measures and regulations are put in place to stamp out piracy,” Mazuruse told the Daily News.

Actor and Transit Crew manager Tawonga Mafundikwa wants government to properly fund the arts.

“Arts in this country have never been taken seriously as an industry yet in other countries it is highly regarded. I expect the powers that be to set aside a meaningful budget for the sector so that it can grow,” said Mafundikwa.

Chikwata 263 member Hector Rufaro Mugani concurs with Mafundikwa.

“There is need to capacitate the artist... There is also need to finalise the cultural policy and it should be a policy by the artist for the artist so as to make local artists world-class ones,” said Mugani.

Singer Dino Mudondo also wants the incoming government to stamp out piracy.

“First and foremost most they should put an end to piracy because an artist’s survival largely comes from record sales… The new government must also impose to impose on a 100 percent local content policy. Since I relocated to South Africa I have never heard my songs being played on their stations but in Zimbabwe foreign artistes are played at the expense of our own,” the Chirangano singer said.

For unapologetic protest actor and playwright Silvanos Mudzvova, one of the priorities of the new government should be the aligning of legislation governing arts and entertainment with the country’s new Constitution.

“Government should align the new Constitution with the Arts Council Act and Censorship and Entertainment Act first. Then when economy recovers and companies start paying tax, they should create an arts fund funded by government,” opined Mudzvova.

The vice chairperson of the Zimbabwe Writers Association (Zwa), Monica Cheru-Mpambawashe, wants the arts sector to proactively take advantage of the change of guard in government.

“The arts sector should be proactive. This is the time to define the ministry that we want. We should quickly come up with documents that we can present to the government at the earliest opportune moment. We should not wait until we are shoved to some other place and then start complaining,” said Cheru-Mpambawashe.

Zimbabwe Musicians Union (Zimu) national chairperson Edith WeUtonga Katiji, like Cheru-Mpambawashe, believes the arts sector can only benefit if they forge a united front in their engagement with the new government.

“The talk has been on inclusivity...we hope that whoever is coming in as the new arts minister is knowledgeable and willing to engage. The arts sector should be prepared to come together to engage as a unit,” the Zimu boss said.

Actor Obrian Mudyiwenyama said the new government must realise the importance of arts and culture. “I’m hopeful they will be able to listen to the artists as much as they listen to industry because we are also serious business people. The National Arts Council if it stays must be capacitated to be the biggest funder of arts and culture.

“We will continue to play our role of being the voice of the people with out compromise. It is clear that artists played a crucial part in this transformation and I do not have to spell out who is being heard in every Kombi and every radio in the country. That’s the power of arts. Our industry must grow now.”

Nhimbe Trust director Josh Nyapimbi could only say: “Launch a new cultural policy and formulate clear deliverables with a necessary 2018 national budget provision.”

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