BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
Players in the arts industry have heaved a sigh of relief after government approved the partial reopening of low-risk sectors such as cinemas (houses and drive-in), theatres and visual art galleries across the country on condition they operated in conformity with COVID-19 safety protocols.
In view of the decline in COVID-19 cases and deaths, the government also reopened some outdoor activities including sports facilities and gyms with the number of patrons capped at 50% of the venues’ holding capacity.
For all events, patrons shall present proof of vaccination at the point of entry, and all patrons must wear their face masks during the show.
Musical concerts that attract physical gatherings, however, remain banned amid fears that large gatherings would become super-spreaders of the highly infectious respiratory disease.
“Cabinet resolved that cinemas and theatres can now allow 50% sitting capacity of vaccinated clients, and that all workers should be vaccinated,” said Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa during a post-Cabinet media briefing on Tuesday.
“National arts galleries across the country will be opened to vaccinated clients only, and that all workers should be vaccinated.”
Mutsvangwa also said Old Bulawayo Monument (Ko Bulawayo) located in Matabeleland South province was being re-developed to preserve heritage and indigenous cultural systems, having been gutted by veld fires 11 years ago.
National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) director Nicholas Moyo, in a statement urged people to comply with the set standard operating procedures.
“To start operating the (cultural and creative industries) CCIs sector spaces must be inspected, have a NACZ certificate and its staff must be vaccinated, ensure availability of adequate potable water supply, and provide safe sanitary facilities which are cleaned regularly,” he said.
“There must be regular disinfecting provisions using the approved disinfectants and all staff to be provided with adequate and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).”
Moyo said they would continue to monitor the situation and engage the government for the remaining CCI disciplines and artforms to be covered as well.
National Gallery of Zimbabwe executive director Raphael Chikukwa said the gradual reopening came at the right time.
“This announcement came at the right time and we will push our programming across all national galleries of Zimbabwe.
“Thank you to our (Youth, Arts, Sport and Recreation) minister Kirsty Coventry for pushing our concerns to the COVID-19 task force team,” he said.
Chikukwa said all the guidelines and protocols put in place for the reopening of the galleries should be adhered to.
“I would also like to encourage other galleries across the country to say, let’s unite against COVID-19 pandemic and follow the laid down procedures. To private galleries, I encourage them to do likewise,” he said.
“To the COVID-19 taskforce team, I encourage them to come view a COVID-19 pandemic exhibition titled Masked supported by Morgan & Co at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare and the Zimbabwe @41 exhibition in Bulawayo.”
Renowned actor and Patsime Edutainment Trust director Jasen Mphepho said there was need for the government to chip in with support as most of these spaces were on complete shutdown.
“Opening of theatres, galleries and cinemas is really a commendable effort by the government as they have at least realised that some sectors of the economy such as entertainment spaces also need to be recognised when reopening these spaces,” he said.
“However, it is also going to be good if they can also chip in with a bit of reignition funding of activities by these spaces so that we can then be able to get back on our feet as with the lockdown we had no means of bringing in finances into the organisations.
“If it’s not funding, I think it would be good also for the government to maybe offer us certain types of rebates, for example, when we look at taxes that we are supposed to be paying.
“I think it’s also really calling upon the government to make sure that some kinds of relief are able to come to us so that we are able to come back to our feet.”
Savanna Trust director Daniel Maphosa welcomed the move and encouraged arts practitioners to get vaccinated.
“This is a welcome development because the sector has been struggling for the past year or so due to the restrictions. As we start working, I would like to encourage other arts practitioners and the general populace to get vaccinated so that we don’t drift back to an era where the arts will be closed again,” he said.