via Minister Langa sets his sights on National Arts Council 17 November 2013 Sunday Mail by Mtandazo Dube
Minister Andrew Langa (Sport, Arts and Culture) is set to make changes at the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ), as he seeks to deliver on the Government’s mandate.
The minister, who made the hint during his Arts and Culture Indaba speech at the Stephen Margolis Resort on October 30, reiterated his words in an interview with The Sunday Mail Leisure last week. At the Indaba, the minister declared: “To achieve a better structurally functional sector, new wine skins ought to be developed as we feel that the National Arts Council in its current form is not in a position of transforming the arts and culture sector, let alone take us to the future.”
Two weeks later, the man at the helm of the newly established stand-alone ministry is determined to ring in the changes as he has promised to bring “sanity, accountability and order” to the arts council.
“We have a NACZ board, we have the NACZ staff headed by Mari (Elvas) and we have the provincial managers. We are going to be injecting new blood into the board and all aspects of the organisation where we know there is non-performance,” said Minister Langa.
The pronouncements by the minister have reportedly caused panic throughout the NACZ which has seen emergency board meetings and back-and- forth shuttling by senior people in the parastatal to the minister’s office.
The director of the NACZ, Elvas Mari, said it was always going to be difficult for the organisations that fall under the new ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture to remain the same.
“These organisations cannot remain the same. Personally I think it’s very obvious that there should be changes, however, what we do not know is what changes will come as that is the prerogative of the minister in line with the mandate he was given by the President,” said Mari. He added: “This is the minister’s vision, which I do not know and have no input in, because I might not be part of his vision.
I may be asked to serve, as has happened before, or I may not be part of his new team.”
The minister, however, said the NACZ bosses and staffers had nothing to be afraid of as the axe would not strike everyone.
“Of course, to Mari and team it is not going to be business as usual, but there is nothing to be afraid of.
“We just want to make sure that the right people are in the right positions and that they deliver. Even in the board, we will not remove everyone. We just want to make sure that everything is in line with the objectives of the ministry. We have a mandate from those who put us in these positions,” explained Minister Langa.
Minister Langa said the priority for the ministry is to ensure that the NACZ is aligned with the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset).
Minister Langa said his focus was ensuring that artistes’ bread-and-butter issues are resolved permanently as they move towards greater contribution to Zimbabwe’s economic growth.
“The creative sector should move to formulate business models that focus on social integration, social empowerment through wealth creation. Artistes need to be equipped to be business players and at the same time made to see beyond the now.
“Artistes should start to see Zimbabwe depending on them for economic growth. The world of the arts and culture should be seen as a place of employment and not just entertaining or leisure,” said the minister.
The minister said the ministry was taking deliberate steps to ensure that talent is no longer discovered when someone has become a school-leaver or has failed at everything else.
“Look at our artistes, most of them, they discovered their talents after finishing ‘O’ Levels or having simply failed to continue with school for one reason or the other. We need to identify talent at the grassroots level. We are taking our programmes to the rural areas and other marginalised places but there are no resources, so we need to look around.
“The money is in the sector, all we need is to put the requisite structures in place, improve the quality of our products and to create a market. The money is in the industry not outside and that is where we will raise it,” said Minister Langa.
However, industry players led by the vocal Cont Mhlanga of Amakhosi Cultural Centre expressed reservations at the decision by the minister to start by firing people instead of giving them a timeframe to regularise their operations.
“Why evaluate a National Arts Council and want to reform it when one knows that they do not have the financial capacity? Why address the structure? I can tell you that whatever structure that will be put there – it will not deliver as long as there is no financial capacity to carry out the programmes,” said Mhlanga.
The outspoken Mhlanga blasted staff in the minister’s office for guiding him and his permanent secretary in the wrong direction.
“Before this new ministry there was a department of arts and culture in the ministry that fell under education. It is these people that should be guiding the minister because they have always been there and they know that there was no money.
“What they should be doing right now is lobby, in the new national budget, for a bigger chunk of money to be channelled towards arts and culture to finance several projects that have been lying idle since independence,” fumed Mhlanga. The Amakhosi Township Square Cultural Centre founder and director said issues of image and capacitating the flag bearers, which necessitated the creation of the ministry in the first place, are the ones that need to be addressed.
“I was there at the Indaba and I feel these guys are going in the wrong direction. The roof is leaking here and we have people busy flooring and painting the walls – that is not how we go about it. Let us fix the roof first,” said Mhlanga.
Mhlanga said the idea of stationing cultural officers in every province and taking arts and culture
programmes to the rural areas is a plan that failed in 1985.